It began with a champagne-propelled property fair on the Côte d'Azur, and ended with firms cancelling their Christmas parties to save money. In between, 2001 was dominated by the attacks on America and Afghanistan but it also included Labour's election landslide, the foot-and-mouth epidemic, the Wembley fiasco, a saucy recruitment campaign and Bob the Builder's decision to go Latino. Stuart Black recalls 12 months that many would rather forget
Top brass and industry monkeys

Top brass

Sir John Egan
More converts to Eganism were gained, with Whitehall, J Sainsbury and Boots adopting framework schemes designed to integrate their supply chains. Egan also returned to the industry, taking the chair of the new government/industry synod, the strategic forum.

Ray O'Rourke
Made the premier league, after buying Laing Construction for £1.

Zaha Hadid
The enfant terrible of British design won her first home commission: Maggie's Centre cancer unit in Kirkcaldy.

Prince Charles
The Royal rumbler returned to his favourite subject when he was appointed NHS design champion in November.

Wilkinson Eyre
Magna in Rotherham (right) burst the bubbles of Grimshaw's Eden Project to scoop the Stirling Prize, and its Gateshead Millennium Bridge winked through the fog on the Tyne to equal acclaim.

Industry monkeys

John Prescott
The deputy prime minister was stripped of the bloated DETR after he found himself out of his depth on transport policy. The low point came when Two Jabs floored an egg-throwing protester during an election walkabout in Rhyl.

Sir Martin Laing
This construction industry fixture was forced to kiss goodbye to his 153-year-old firm after it racked up losses of £200m.

Allan Leighton
Wilcon Homes' pre-tax profit plummeted under chairman Leighton, leading to a profit warning in November and a crisis of confidence in the whole of the housebuilding sector.

Balfour Beatty
A bruising involvement with Railtrack was followed by its abandonment of the £200m Ilusu dam in Turkey.

Construction lobbyists
Trade groups struggled to be heard in Whitehall after the exit of most-popular-construction-minister-ever Nick Raynsford.

It's a bit of a lottery

After the dubious performance of lottery-funded buildings in 2000, this year produced some real landmarks:

  • Nicholas Grimshaw's Eden Project in Cornwall, which pulled in 950,000 visitors in its first month.
  • Wilkinson Eyre's Magna in Rotherham.
  • Building Design Partnership's Glasgow Science Centre.
  • Grimshaw's National Space Centre in Leicester.

Meanwhile, the dome: Legacy's bid to convert the upturned wok into a high-tech business park collapsed in February, leaving it to the birds, who have begun to pick holes in its roof. In July, the Greenwich Millennium Village ran into trouble again, when sacked architect HTA launched a claim against the developers for £4m.

And in with the new ...

Charlie Luxton
With Channel 4 show Not All Houses Are Square, the 26-year-old designer dished out a few pointers on what houses should be about. The verdict? "A few bricks short of a full hod," said The Guardian.

John Spellar
Appointed transport minister in June, Spellar picked up where Prescott left off – and has the unenviable task of getting the rail network going again.

Wayne Hemingway
Wimpey Homes recruited the fashion guru behind the Red or Dead label to give a little designer glamour to its £70m housing project in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear. Wayne's World is, it seems, on its way.

Brian Wilson
The new Nick Raynsford took over construction after the post-election reshuffle – as well as most of the rest of British industry.

Handbags at dawn

Rogers and Hart in Let's Call the Whole Thing Off
Sacked as Welsh assembly architect for allegedly allowing costs to overrun, Lord Rogers sent a vitriolic email to assembly members pointing the finger at their officials. Edwina Hart, the finance minister, riposted by accusing Rogers of making 100 budget mistakes.

AWG vs Morrison Construction
Anglian Water Group bought the Morrison business for £269m, then found out that they had given a little too generously. Reports of a legal action for £30m soon followed.

Zara Lamont vs QSs
The then-director of the Construction Best Practice Programme had QSs up in arms after accusing them of promoting adversarial relationships.

Ken Livingstone vs everyone
Our Ken had a great year, calling English Heritage "the Taliban of British architecture" for its stance on tall towers (EH chairman Sir Neil Cossons struck back by accusing the mayor of sucking up to the City), taking the government to court over its public–private partnership plans for the Tube and sacking Steve Norris from Transport for London.

Sex and drugs and rock and roll

One half of the industry tried to cash in on its raunchy machismo – while the other tut-tutted that that was hardly the image it ought to be promoting.


  • The Construction Industry Training Board got hit by flak after launching a yoof-appeal poster campaign with brickies "laying in Ibiza" and plasterers getting, well, plastered.
  • Channel 4's Big Brother tried to get its detainees to mate by ordering a camera-free "love shack" from the In Situ Rammed Earth Company.
  • London department store Liberty's attached huge snaps of building beefcake to its scaffolding.
  • Berkeley Homes produced a calendar decorated by stripped site managers with muscles by Michaelangelo.
  • Morgan Sindall came up with a "Safety is Sexy" campaign that included commissioning trendy designers to create dare-to-bare sitewear.
  • M&E specialist Maxwell Stewart set up an e-dating agency for lonely industry folk. One even found a wife through the website.


  • A Building investigation revealed the rise of drug-taking on building sites. One alarmed trainee civil engineer said: "You often get lads who are on speed or some kind of pill to get them through the day. They often think they are Superman and try to jump from high places."

    Rock and roll

  • John Morgan, boss of contractor Morgan Sindall, told Building that he was a punk promoter in Soho before entering the industry.
  • Another year, another massive hit record for Bob the Builder – this time a cover of Latin swingalong, Mambo Number Five.

    Sporting spanners

    A series of bungled set-pieces left Sport England with mud in its eye and got Chris Smith kicked out on his ear.

  • After a year of political embarrassment (and the expenditure of £120m), the national stadium at Wembley seems to have been saved by Australian contractor Multiplex. Doubters say that there is time for more own goals before the final whistle.
  • Plans for a £95m athletics stadium at Picketts Lock (pictured) were dropped – to the chagrin of the International Amateur Athletics Federation, which had been promised that London would host the 2005 world championships.
  • North London's Clissold Leisure Centre swelled in budget from £7m to £27m: it is now two-and-a-half years late and still not open.

    Riotous assemblies

    Scottish parliament
    The price tag rose from £40m to £230m and a second project manager resigned, but the late Enric Miralles' extraordinary design finally began to emerge from the ground.

    Welsh assembly
    More budget-busting – £14m to £40m – got Richard Rogers sacked and left the project in tatters. Welsh politicians are now looking for a new team to build Rogers' design.

    Greater London Assembly
    Lord Foster's political rugby ball is heading for completion – within its £45m budget.

    Tall orders

    Though it seems to come pretty easily to Afroman, architects can't seem to get high. The double blow of English Heritage's nay-saying and 11 September has left skyscrapers in limbo.

  • The £300m Heron Tower in the City is awaiting the result of a public inquiry.
  • Renzo Piano's £300m Spire at London Bridge is being reworked in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
  • Richard Rogers' Grand Union Building in Paddington Basin was cut in half.
  • Ian Simpson's Holloway Circus Tower in Birmingham was chopped by a quarter.

    Say what?

    It's an act of ambition by O'Rourke; an act of desperation by Laing
    One rival contractor on that sale

    Because somebody has to be seen to be taking responsibility
    Sir Martin Laing's reason for stepping down as executive chairman

    Apart from my family, my whole life centres on three things: my building business, letting out my caravans and my flock of sheep. At the moment they are all under threat
    Keith Allen, a builder in Carlisle, sees little hope during the foot-and-mouth epidemic

    It's been a bit difficult to shake off this image that the project is out of control
    John Gibbons, the Scottish executive's chief project manager for the Scottish parliament

    We certainly don't visit them to tell them how well they're doing
    John Spencer, senior construction manager for the HSBC tower at Canary Wharf, on his "friendly rivalry" with the builders of the Citibank tower next door

    It's a complete dog's breakfast. Who will drive the Egan agenda?
    Sir Michael Latham on the government's post-election reshuffle

    The worst scum of modern capitalism
    Ken Livingstone, describing PPP bidders

    I don't mind being called scum, because I'm the chief executive and I'm paid for it. But I do object on behalf of staff working hard and maybe earning £25,000. I think that's grossly irresponsible
    Mike Welton, chief executive of Balfour Beatty, letting Ken know he only got it half right

    Ken has a job to reconcile the unfettered interests of business with London as a city in which people can live and enjoy themselves
    English Heritage chairman Sir Neil Cossons' riposte to the London mayor in the verbal war over tall buildings

    Morale is very, very low. Those who have remained are working alongside people like me, who are floating around like the undead
    A Beazer director on the feelings of the firm's 800 staff given the chop after its sale to Persimmon

    Talking points of 2001

    "11 September" became the only way to describe the suicide bombings that razed New York's World Trade Centre and part of the Pentagon.

    About 5000 people are now thought to have been killed.

    The retaliatory "war on terrorism" resulted in the Taliban being ousted from Afghanistan.

    Although a downturn was expected, 11 September took more wind from the global economy's sales. Small projects were shelved and nervous architects shed staff. Firms affected by the big chill included Gensler, Interior Architects and Foster and Partners.

    An appalling run of accidents left 106 dead by June. This figure, the highest in a decade, scotched John Prescott's target of a 40% reduction in accidents in four years, set at February's safety summit. The result was that contractors focused their attention on the welfare of the workforce, unions floated the idea of "roving reps" and the strategic forum proposed a reform of the the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations.

    The Construction Confederation wrote to the BBC complaining that Changing Rooms and Ground Force showed a disregard for safety guidelines. Oh, and Building got into trouble with its readers after it carried a Motorola advert that featured a worker on a roof ignoring basic safety rules.

    Despite Prescott's punch and Peter Mandelson's "inner steel", the Labour Party comprehensively stuffed the Tories in a landslide victory. In the post-election reshuffle, the DETR was dissolved, with Prescott and Nick Raynsford, the industry's politician, dumped in favour of Brian Wilson, John Spellar and Lord Falconer.

    The Tory leadership race turned into a non-event with Iain Duncan Smith, the ex-Bellway Homes marketing man, winning – and then agreeing with everything Tony was doing.

    Blair's billions
    The electoral pledge of £19bn for construction over the next three years made the public sector look like a safe haven in a recession. But firms trying to get a piece of the action were put off by the public's distaste for the PFI, the chaos in the transport sector and Ken Livingstone's decision to take the Tube part-privatisation to the High Court.

    The foot-and-mouth panic prompted the destruction of 5.7 million animals and The Mirror to run the headline "Apocalypse cow". The total cost of the slaughter was £2.7bn – not counting the money lost by rural builders unable to get access to their sites.

    Anti-cowboy initiatives
    The government's flagship consumer protection policy, the quality mark, finally got under way after the sign-up fee and entry qualifications were relaxed. And Chris Blythe, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Building, was stung by plumbers who charged him the gross national product of Namibia for tightening the taps on his sink.

    Moves and shake-ups

    Beazer In March, Persimmon picked up the housebuilder for £560m, leading to an 800-head staff cull.

    Bryant Taylor Woodrow paid £535m for Bryant in March, then made 150 posts redundant.

    McLean Homes/Wimpey Homes The two subsidiaries merged and 435 positions were axed.

    McAlpine Homes Sold to Wimpey in August for £461m.

    Schal The construction management firm was submerged into parent Carillion after problems with schemes such as the Royal Opera House.

    Laing Goodbye to "The Good Builder", now under new management.

    Churchfield The fit-out firm suffered a dramatic collapse, leaving lots of angry creditors. Administrators moved in to investigate the directors.

    Sadly missed

    Richard Seifert, architect of Centre Point and the NatWest Tower, died aged 90.

    Eric Bedford, architect of the Post Office Tower, died aged 91.

    Sir Ian Dixon, reformer and 11-year chairman of Willmott Dixon, died at 62.

    Sir Colin Buchanan, architect, engineer and town planner, died aged 94.

    Sir Denys Lasdun, architect of the Royal National Theatre and the Royal College of Physicians, died aged 86.

    In brief

    The new year is rung in quietly after 2000's overhyped fiasco … Demolition men move into the Millennium Dome … ITV investigation accuses housebuilders of poor workmanship …

    … Prescott's safety summit sets a target of 40% fewer site deaths … Quality mark sign-up fee is dropped … Legacy's bid to turn the dome into a business park collapses … English Heritage vetoes Heron Tower …

    … 17,000 people attend the biggest ever MIPIM property fair on the Côte d'Azur … Eden Project opens … Foot-and-mouth disease hits the countryside …

    … Government starts a crackdown on construction firms that make excessive profits out of the PFI … the Construction Industry Board is wound up … O'Rourke is named as preferred bidder in Laing sale …

    … Anarchists hit the streets in May Day demo … Design work on Wembley halts … Housebuilding buyouts lead to 1400 redundancies … Scottish parliament admits that £195m budget is not enough … Nick Raynsford pledges £19bn to rebuild public services over the next three years …

    … English Heritage slams tall towers in London … Labour trounces the Tories at the election … the DETR is dissolved: Prescott and Raynsford give way to Wilson, Spellar and Falconer in … Alan Ezzi, Scottish parliament project director, resigns …

    … Jean Nouvel wins RIBA gold medal … Richard Rogers is sacked from Welsh assembly … Jeffrey Archer is jailed for perjury … Brian wins Big Brother …

    … Strategic Forum inaugurated … CITB launches controversial sex and booze poster campaign … Tony Pidgley Sr gets £1m bonus …

    … Terrorist attacks on the USA stun the world … Railtrack collapses … the sale of Laing is finalised … England beats Germany 5-1 in the World Cup …

    … The USA begins bombing raids on Afghanistan … Heron Tower public inquiry opens … the Magna science centre wins the Stirling Prize …

    … Heathrow's Terminal 5 project gets the green light … Harry Potter fever grips the nation as the film of the book opens …

    … Planning green paper is published … Analysts warn that construction will lose 100,000 jobs next year … The Taliban are defeated