I hear that the class divide is alive and well at contractor Haymills, which is building an extension to London's Science Museum. Last week's topping out ceremony coincided with England's match with Argentina, so the firm laid on two giant on-site screens to allow attendees to catch the action. Upstairs, the suited chairman, chief executive and dignitaries quaffed champagne while downstairs, wearing overalls and tucking into beer and bacon sandwiches, were the lads who were building the place. It may be part of the Science Museum when it's completed, but last week it looked more like a museum of social anthropology.
The faces at the window
Work on sites around the country came to a standstill last Friday as builders gathered around their TVs to watch the match. Actually, it wasn't always their sets they chose. I gather that staff at financial adviser Abros were glued to screens at their seventh-floor offices near Chancery Lane when they felt a cold feeling on the backs of their necks and noticed that builders working on the exterior were huddled around the windows.
State of the art (in 1972)
Other construction people are getting a slightly better view. A colleague of mine paid a visit to the offices of construction portal Asite last week and found "World Cup Corner" tucked away among the banks of computers and sophisticated gadgetry. This is the den where Asite staff can keep up with events in Korea and Japan – but instead of the 30-inch plasma flatscreen you may have expected, the Asite techies have to make do with an antique 16-inch Sony portable with a coathanger for an ariel.
I turn to the latest edition of Master Builder, the Federation of Master Builders' magazine, which carries an item about the need to attract more women to the industry. This egalitarian rallying cry naturally drew the attention of editor Clive Frusher, who is described as having "the last word every month" in his back-page editorial.
For the benefit of Building readers who weren't refreshed by Frusher's unique views on the subject, I repeat it in full. "A few top people from the FMB were among the 160-strong attendees at a London conference looking at ways to attract more women into the industry. As I thought about going to the conference I asked myself the question: why does a builder, plumber or roofer need a secretary?" He was joking, right?
Overlooking the park
The craze for putting "stack" developments on top of structures such as petrol stations and railway lines is accelerating. The Sussex arm of contractor Bluestone is building a new renal unit for the Royal County Sussex Hospital in Brighton on top of a multistorey car park.
My contact informs me that the £8.2m scheme is being built without having to close the car park. Not particularly convenient if you're one of the walking wounded, but at least the contractors will have somewhere handy to leave their vans.
I am grateful to an American colleague for sending me a highly amusing email listing "50 new British architectural terms for the 21st century". Here are some of my favourites:
- Designosaur: an architect who uses a drawing board instead of a computer
- Designosaurus Rex: Royal Family member with 20th-century views
- Emission statement: outpouring of carbon dioxide on subject of same
- Cadswallop: impactful yet meaningless elements of computer-aided design
- Alsoppy: having maudlin sense of own heroism after a few drinks.
And that's just for starters. For your amusement, I have uploaded the rest of the list to Building's website: www.building.co.uk.
Earn £££s at home
Foster and Partners' Ken Shuttleworth appears to have been earning a little extra cash on the side. The windows of mid-market furniture chain Cargo have large posters of a sofa and coffee table set inside a stylish modern interior. The featured home has a curved glass facade overlooking a wooded garden … unless I'm very much mistaken, that's Chez Ken.
… and finally
BAA group technical director Tony Douglas is better known for his fondness for jargon than lavatorial humour, but he inadvertently cracked a couple of dirty jokes last week. When explaining how he was rolling out BAA's new intelligent object-modelled toilets (see news feature, pages 22-23), he stated with a straight face that the firm was "back-flushing it through the system" and added that they'd soon be "on the job".