For a developer, Argent boss Roger Madelin makes a deliciously indiscreet conference speaker. At the RIBA conference, Madelin let slip that he had been in a secret pow-wow with London mayor Ken Livingstone over his giant King's Cross development. Predictably, they didn't see eye to eye – but not in the way you'd think.
"Ken suggested he might be able to help us demolish any heritage on the site that got in our way," said Madelin. "We said we liked heritage and wanted to retain it." Perhaps Ken hasn't realised that, since his last stint as London leader during the 1980s, heritage has become a highly bankable asset for developers.
The way we were
RIBA's Birmingham conference got off to an entertaining start last week, thanks to Ted Cullinan. Taking inspiration from Rolf "do you know what it is yet?" Harris, the award-winning architect condensed the past 30 years of architecture into a couple of sketches.
The first sketch showed a barefoot builder erecting the Mannheim Garden Centre gridshell of the early 1970s. With long curly hair and rippling with muscles, he wore bell-bottom Levis, complete with hash-stash in back pocket.
The second sketch was of a builder erecting Cullinan's gridshell at the Weald & Downland Museum. The 21st-century version wore a hard-hat, buttoned-up shirt, regulation harness, straight Levis and metal-toe-capped boots.
Cullinan's punchline said it all: "The visible ripples have gone out of the blokes and into the buildings."
A phrase we're going through
Conferences are ideal breeding grounds for catchphrases, and at last week's RIBA shindig in Birmingham, Jon Rouse, CABE's irrepressible chief executive, did not shirk his responsibilities.
"Labyrinths of luvviedom" was Rouse's latest contribution to the genre. Though the phrase's meaning may not be self-evident, I gather he intended to convey that the cause of building design would not be progressed by star architects patting each other on the back.
Sadly, Rouse did not stay in Birmingham until the evening, when architectural luvvies from all over Britain gathered – to share this year's RIBA awards among themselves.
Sweet dreams are made of this
Architects have been given the opportunity to work with an exciting new medium – cake.
To celebrate the end of architecture week (Sunday 30 June), kitchen queen Jane Asher will be judging a contest between gateaux in the shape of "famous or fantastical" buildings. Entrants so far include Nick Borowiecki of Camberwell-based design studio SE5.
No doubt the final entrants will include gravity-defying deconstructed flans from trendy young practices, and something matrimonial with lots of white icing surrounded by doric columns from the neoclassicists. And if any have too many layers, expect howls of protest from English Heritage.
Refuse thy name
If you attended the Chartered Institute of Housing's conference at Harrogate last week, then I hope you didn't mention the "c" words – construction and contracting. Builders who took stalls, such as Birse, Wates and Lovells, said they were into "community regeneration", "partnering with the community" and "neighbourhood renewal". Only Willmott Dixon deviated slightly, and that was only a timid reference to "design and build". First quantity surveyors deny their heritage, now contractors. Who's next? Housebuilders? That would be a tricky one.
Historically dubious assertion
I bumped into French design guru Philippe Starck at the launch of his executive lounge for Eurostar. So, what did he think of his country's ignominious exit from the World Cup? "I'm not interested," he declared. "In fact, I'm proud we lost. You can't have a right-wing country and win at football."
Moments later, though, Starck discovered that not everyone is so dismissive of Jules Rimet's jeu sans frontier. During his speech, a number of Belgians in audience became agitated when a Eurostar monitor above Starck's head flashed the news that Brazil had scored against their country. "Stay cool, stay cool," he urged. Some chance.
Oh, big surprise
It is always refreshing to see the benefits of the IT revolution. When a colleague visited Bovis Lend Lease's site offices at Paternoster Square a few months back, he was greatly impressed by the large plasma screens dotted around displaying programme information. When he returned last week, though, he was amazed to find a crowd gathered around each of them. Intrigued to find out what aspect of construction was causing such a stir he elbowed his way to the front to find that it was Mexico vs Italy.