At last week's CABE/Observer urban regeneration conference, the government came under attack for underachieving. Lord Rogers, however, adopted an unusually supportive tone: "You have to give the government full marks," he said. "Urban renaissance is within our grasp." Is this to do with the fact that after two years in the political wilderness, Rogers is once more back in favour? Having reformed the Urban Task Force, he is once again working with his old mucker, John Prescott.
Only last year the architect was being written off as a spent force. Now, with his brother, Stanhope's Peter Rogers, the favourite to succeed Sir John Egan as head of the strategic forum, Lord Rogers is once again looking like one of the best-connected figures in the industry.
As usual, there was jargon aplenty at the conference, but I was tickled to hear of three new definitions coined by the speakers. "Partnership", according to RICS regeneration panel chair Nigel Smith, means "the suppression of mutual loathing in pursuit of a grant". Likewise, Smith uses "socially excluded" as new-age shorthand for "feckless troublemaker". And another speaker sardonically pointed out that the government's New Deal for Communities grant scheme for underprivileged estates might be alternatively named the New Deal for Consultants.
Keeping up with the Joans
Last Friday's launch party for the new Serpentine Pavilion was a glamorous affair on a balmy summer's evening in Hyde Park. For one attendee, however, the bash was rather run-of-the-mill. Architect David Adjaye, a fast-rising star, had the week before been invited to the party of the year – Sir Elton John's charity bash at his Windsor home. "Posh and Becks were there, Kylie was there …" Adjaye gushed excitedly. "And Joan Collins was there, dragging her latest toyboy around like a dog on a leash."
The royal prerogative
The Prince of Wales takes delight in his skirmishes with the architectural profession. He'll often slip in the odd off-the-cuff dig at architects.
For his speech on conservation at the launch of the Architectural Heritage Fund's Revive to Regenerate campaign, the prince had prepared a list of seven good reasons why historic buildings should be revived. Number six was a not-so-subtle potshot at hypocritical designers who foist modernist monstrosities on the general public. "Lots of architects like to live in these historic buildings," the prince announced. Ouch!
The jumbo job
Deryk Eke is about to return to BAA after a two-year secondment to government. As construction director of the Office of Government Commerce, he has been trying to introduce Egan principles into public procurement. Compared with that Herculean task, building airports will presumably seem a doddle – but what role will Eke take on back at BAA? Surely there's only one task big enough: Terminal 5, the largest building job in the country. The airport operator has still to replace former T5 chief Norman Haste, who is leaving to head up CrossRail. Watch this space …
Wates and subcontractor McKenna Demolition were in the dock last week for breaching health and safety regulations. After both firms pleaded guilty, the three glamorous female magistrates announced fines which, it emerged, were higher than the court was authorised to set. The magistrates retired briefly and returned with lower penalties. This was all too much for Richard McKenna, MD of the demolition firm, who had been representing himself during the trial. The shaven-headed, rotund wrecker muttered a phrase that shall not be repeated but was akin to something a white-van man might exclaim to a female driver exiting a roundabout.
Enough concrete, already
A colleague of mine was intrigued by one of the statistics highlighted on the hoarding at the redevelopment site of Birmingham's Bull Ring. The sign claimed that at least 90 km3 of concrete would be used on the project – enough to cover the whole of the country. I'm told this is a mistake and the sign should read 90,000 m3 – after all, the demolition of the Bull Ring was supposed to mean less concrete, not more.
A hanging offence
Glad to hear that Steve Elliott, managing director at Morgan Sindall fit-out arm Overbury (see also "The green green grass", below), is cracking down on safety violations on sites – rival firms' sites, that is. On his way to a lunch with one of my colleagues, Elliott spotted some dodgy antics at a Soho building project. Scaffold poles were swinging wildly above the footpath as scaffolders hoisted them onto the building on flimsy-looking ropes. An alarmed Elliott took down the details and phoned the Health and Safety Executive at once.