Alfred McAlpine has become the latest firm to pull out of the Major Contractors Group, following Laing, Balfour Beatty and Birse through the door. I must confess that the decision did not come as a complete surprise to me: for several months, I've been hearing reports of the firm's increasing dissatisfaction with the MCG. Senior executives were frustrated by the hit-and-miss way it presented the world according to contractors, and one was particularly irked by the lack of an action plan to fight the negative press surrounding the PFI. All of which puts a different spin on McAlpine's official line that its departure was a reflection of the fact that it was "now a broader company than just a contractor".
Calm and considered
Amid the frantic dash to get the Baltic centre ready for next Saturday's grand opening, Sune Nordgren, the centre's Swedish director, remains unflappable. "People have to rush around but I think it's important I stay calm," he says. In fact, Nordgren's inner calm is strikingly similar to that of another meatball muncher – Sven-Göran Eriksson. "Yes, perhaps I am like Sven," Nordgren says. "I try to keep my head level, be an inspiration and a good coach." The tight-lipped silver-haired maestro went on to say that his compatriot did much better than he expected with the England team: "I think they were very lucky to get that far without playing great football." Praise indeed.
Me and my gull
Even Nordgren would have been hard-pressed to take a broad, general view of the habits of certain Tyneside residents. The Baltic was home to a colony of kittiwakes, which had to be rehoused once work began. Some 200 pairs were given a purpose-built nesting ledge at the rear of the site – but this had to be removed as the birds repeatedly dive-bombed construction workers. "It became intolerable," says architect Dominic Williams. Good idea for a film, though.
The people at British Gypsum haven't had much to smile about recently: production problems at one of its factories have created a plaster shortage that has left some builders waiting five weeks for a delivery. But according to a source at the firm, things have improved over the past fortnight: "With the World Cup on, nobody's been ordering," my source revealed. No wonder – everyone's plastered already.
It's what you do with them
It seems that this newfangled microtechnology is having a curious effect on male behaviour. A female colleague of mine was seated at a table with four quantity surveyors at a function last week, where she was amused by the sight of the men exhibiting their shiny new mobile phones. The comparisons came with comments such as, "mine's smaller than yours", and "let's see how small yours is" – quite the reverse, she observes, of the usual masculine way of thinking.
Lapse of taste
Word reaches me that officials within the construction division of the GMB were all of a flutter this week after news broke about the union's latest attempt to woo new members. The brothers are currently locked in a turf war with actors' union Equity over who should recruit thousands of lapdancers as members. Equity argues that it is the natural home for the dancers as it is the "performers" union, but the GMB has hit back claiming that the ladies would sit nicely alongside the more traditional industries – such as construction. Also, they would liven up its Christmas party.
A colleague of mine was highly impressed with the press pack he received at a recent seminar. Steel contractor Victor Buyck-Hollandia Joint Venture arranged the colloquium, which included a presentation on constructing the steel frame for Foster's Swiss Re tower – aka the erotic gherkin. Reflecting the firms' Belgian/Dutch origins, my colleague's goody bag included Belgian beer, chocolates and an Edam cheese. Unfortunately, there were no erotic gherkins.
Adam's theory of evolution
Classical evangelist and RIBA honorary secretary Robert Adam still chafes at the lack of recognition he receives from his British peers. On the other side of the pond, however, it's a different matter. Writing in the City Journal of New York, Adam argues that the skyscrapers that first appeared in Chicago and New York in the late 19th century were the invention of classical architects, not modernists. Among the fan mail the article elicited was a letter from the world's prime centre of power, the White House. "I look forward to reading more of your great work in the future," gushed Tim Goeglein, special assistant to the president.