Paranoia, confusion and mistaken identity are our chosen themes for the week in construction, thanks to Seb Coe, Alistair Darling and the town of Epsom
You’re late, Darling
The topping out of the Terminal 5 project at Heathrow last week brought the airport extension a step closer to completion – and not before time, judging by the experience of guest of honour, transport secretary Alistair Darling.
The VIPs, workers and hacks assembled on the eighth floor of the project had to wait 45 minutes for the appearance of the minister. Rumour has it that airport authorities had to rush his flight through air traffic control to enable him to make the ceremony at all. As the terminal will be dealing with 30 million passengers, hopefully such measures won’t be necessary in future.
Say it with vegetables
London’s official countdown to the Olympic Games kicked off last week in some style, with Ken Livingstone, Tessa Jowell and the ubiquitous Seb Coe opening proceedings in Trafalgar Square with grand speeches. Loitering near the back, I saw a figure I took to be Coe approach the microphone and start his speech. “Tomatoes,” the figure intoned gravely. “Cabbage … cabbage … tomatoes.” Fearing for the good Lord’s sanity, I shuffled forward, whereupon I realised it was actually an oik from logistics checking the PA system. I was also wrong in my other assumption, which was that the oik was suggesting types of rotten produce the audience might like to heave at the even more ubiquitous Heather Small, whose song Proud is an increasingly irritating fixture at Olympic events. And we’ve got another seven bloody years of it …
Surrey, we’ll try that again
It seems that we got into a muddle with our “Hull vs Epsom” feature last week. Much to the horror of Epsom council – which demanded a grovelling apology – we showed the market hall in Reigate town centre. So if anyone in Epsom read the piece and realised with a mounting sense of horror and disorientation that they’d really been living in Reigate all these years, we’re truly, truly sorry. Ditto any Reigate residents who jumped to the conclusion that they’d been catching the wrong train. And to set the record straight, here is Epsom’s clocktower.
Taking the stain
It could have been an accident, but nerves are a more likely cause of a wine-glass-dropping incident by RIBA president George Ferguson – five minutes before he was due to make his farewell speech at the handing-over ceremony at Portland Place last week. Luckily, it was a glass of white wine this time but could a shaky hand be the reason for Ferguson’s famed red trousers?
Tony Blair’s Better Public Building Awards are due to be announced next month, but one prominent architect, whose firm has in the past been a double winner, is not impressed. “If they’re going to call them building awards, they should award them just to buildings,” he moans – referring to last year’s winner, Bingley Relief Road. “They should follow my definition: if it doesn’t have a toilet, it’s not a building. There are no toilets in underpasses or bridges.” Anyone who’s walked though the underpass at my local station might beg to differ …