If you’re looking for one building that symbolises 2002, it has to be Swiss Re, the City tower that’s the last word in first-class design and construction – and is still largely unlet. If you want more than one, read the next 12 pages as Building rewinds the past year and presses pause on all the key events …
Eggs and flour: 2002’s architectural ingredientsArchitectural editor Martin Spring lists the delicacies and the truly offal in his selection of the buildings of the year
Drowning by numbers: Clissold Leisure Centre
Though it bears the inspired stamp of a signature architect – in this case Hodder Associates – the Clissold Leisure Centre in north London ranks highly as the lottery project from hell. Completed almost three years late and £20m overbudget, the project has been blamed for helping to financially ruin the impoverished borough of Hackney. Polished modernist architecture, including a complex folded roof of steel and glass and a glazed frontage to the street, has been provided at the expense of fun for its leisure-seeking customers – even the flume ride has been puritanically split apart from the adjoining swimming pool. Since opening, the clear-glazed facade has been coated with an obscure film to prevent passers-by peering in. Flour power: Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts
Not so long ago, industry and commerce were mobilised as powerhouses to regenerate decaying cities: nowadays that role is given to the much softer enterprises of art and culture. Gateshead, Newcastle’s poorer sibling on the south bank of the Tyne, is putting nearly all its regeneration eggs in the art basket. The Gateshead Centre for Contemporary Art, newly converted for £46m out of the former Baltic flour mill on the banks of the Tyne will be followed by the even more extravagant Music Centre. Both attractions are plugged into Tyneside’s culture circuit by the graceful winking footbridge, which opened last year. All three projects claim the architectural high ground: the winking bridge was awarded the RIBA’s Stirling prize, and Dominic Williams’ competition-winning design for the Baltic centre and Foster and Partners’ music centre can be relied on to scoop up several more awards. Living it up north: No 1 Deansgate Domineering skylines, abstract sculptural forms, modern transparent materials and minimalist decor are all flaunted by the new generation of high-rise city-centre apartment blocks. After being pioneered on London’s riverfront by CZWG and Richard Rogers Partnership, the born-again building type is now sweeping through provincial cities. Manchester lays claim to one of the most inspired examples, courtesy of Crosby Homes and local star Ian Simpson Architects. No 1 Deansgate came as part of the benign fall-out of the IRA bomb of 1996, which devastated the city centre. The 17-storey block is protected from the harsh northern winds by an outer veil of glass louvres that screen the balconies that wrap around the apartments. Head egg: City Hall
London’s new £43m City Hall is to government buildings what Swiss Re is to office towers – a moulded form with low-energy aspirations as designed by Foster and Partners using the latest in computer modelling. Externally, the disconcertingly lopsided egg-shaped form serves to shade the south facade from summer sunshine. Internally, a seven-storey stepped ramp rises directly above the debating chamber like a helterskelter on speed. Even so, such architectural acrobatics have not silenced the whingers, who ask where the new Greater London Authority’s burgeoning bureaucracy could expand to and complain that the ramp might be ruled out of bounds as a safety hazard.
Risky businessesManagement editor Victoria Madine looks at the business lows and lows of 2002
Running a business was never supposed to be easy, and this year’s brew of problems – sorry, challenges – could make for a raging end-of-year hangover for some business leaders. Spiralling insurance premiums in the wake of 11 September are posing a serious threat to small businesses, consultants and subcontractors in high-risk areas such as roofing and scaffolding. Some of the biggest names in construction (such as Kier, Mansell and Galliford Try) have recently closed their generous final salary pension schemes because of new accountancy rules that will publicly expose the state of their pension funds, which in many cases will not be a pretty sight. The integrity of board directors and the role of company auditors have also come under scrutiny after the collapse of Enron. Here in the UK, the City’s concerns over accounting procedures and high PFI bid costs brought about a change to procedures that means companies now have to count bid costs as soon as they are incurred. In March these new rules changed Amey’s expected £55m profit into an £18m loss. A few months later, fellow support services firm Atkins announced a fall in profit. Both Amey and Atkins have seen their share prices plummet. The skills shortage is continuing to cause headaches; experienced construction professionals are in so much demand that major companies are poaching top-shelf executives from each other, or looking to bring in outsiders (Costain, Carillion and Wimpey have all recruited from beyond the sector). This in turn has turned up the heat on executives’ salaries across all sectors. But if you were looking for a woman’s name amongst these honchos, you would have been disappointed. In 2002 female executives were still something of a rare bird – so to speak. Of course, no year is complete without its buzzwords, so make sure you’re au fait with 2002’s. Encouragingly, these all pertain to this year’s hot subject of community and the environment: no commercial architect is complete without a sustainability director (check out Broadway Malyan and BDP), and mission statements currently being penned for 2003 are set to include CSR (corporate social responsibility) and SRI (socially responsible investment).
A motley cast of charactersLegal editor Eleanor Cochrane casts an eye over some of 2002’s more colourful cases
This was the year of the Society of Construction Law. Or at least, Building’s legal columnists seemed to think so. Their readers were treated to a year-long running commentary on the alleged merits and flaws of the society’s Delay and Disruption Protocol, from its conception at the turn of the year through to its birth on 16 October. Appropriately, Tony Bingham flagged up the society’s “guidance note” in the first issue, prophesying that “it will have a major effect on this sometimes difficult area of construction”. And this final issue closes with the SCL’s own explanation of what it was trying to achieve (see pages 40-41). But what else happened this year? Well, space is limited but here are a few of Bingham’s more intriguing tales … The one with … Mr and Mrs Grumpy and Beelzebub the Builder
Or, the dodgy householder who agreed to pay a dodgy builder cash, then tried to get him to pay up when it all went, predictably, wrong. Despite the judge’s view that the builder “habitually evades paying corporation tax, VAT and personal income tax”, and that his evidence was “evasive and untruthful”, he still won. (5 April) The one with … the flamenco dancer
Well, there wasn’t really a flamenco dancer (only on Bingham’s holiday) but Mr Stannard still sued his upstairs neighbour for nuisance after an interior redesign installed wooden floors and caused the amount of noise transmitted through the ceiling to become “more than he could bear”. The upstairs neighbour had to pay for an expert to determine what work needed doing to remove the problem, the cost of the works and the legal costs of the trial – so think hard before you get too creative in your home. (15 November) The one with … the Steinway piano
This is the tale of pianist Jean Louis Steuerman, who was forced to put his Steinway grand in storage when two attempts by his builder to install a dampproofing system failed. The unfortunate builder was hit with a bill for a whopping £47,000. (28 June) The one with … the tea and biscuits
Bingham regaled us with the story of the adjudicator who thought he might be a mediator and invited his clients to discuss their disputes over tea and biscuits. All rather unusually civilised … (18 January) The one with … the deputy prime
Sinister of Qatar Sheikh Mohammed Khalifa Hamad al-Thani, who also happens to be the deputy prime minister of Qatar, tried to get away with paying almost £200,000 less to his builder than ordered to by the adjudicator. He said he had a claim for liquidated damages for the balance and could set it off. Not impressed with this line of argument, the judge ordered the builder to be paid in full. (15 March) The one with … the clay pigeon shoots, all-night raves and burning manure
Twenty years of arguments between neighbours in Newchapel, near Gatwick, resulted in relations “as entrenched and as bitter as it is possible to imagine”, according to the judge in the case of Fowler vs Jones. The problem was a certain Ms Ellen Jones, who sold her house and moved into a caravan next door to it. She then began organising clay pigeon shoots, all-night raves and bonfires of manure and rotten vegetables – and that was before the three masked gunmen had even showed up. The upshot? Ms Jones received a fine for £10,000. (19 July) The one with … the obsessed solicitor
There was a tragic story of the solicitor who became obsessed by his own legal dispute. He sued his partners in his law firm and lost, then sued his barrister and lost, and then tried to avoid paying costs because that barrister refused to mediate and, yes you guessed it, lost again. (20 September)
Putting curves in all the right placesThis year’s organically-shaped architectural designs have been posing some challenges for Britain’s project teams. Technical editor Andy Pearson explains how they were solved
This year has seen the construction of some pretty spectacular curved buildings; each a different technical challenge, and each a tribute to their design and construction teams.
The caterpillar-shaped timber gridshell at the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum in West Sussex received its first visitors at Easter. Edward Cullinan Architects’ new workshop building with its rippling vault of criss-crossing oak laths introduced a new, sculptural element to timber construction. Its revolutionary design was only possible by combining the craftsman’s intuitive appreciation of the properties of timber with the engineer’s understanding of forces in the structure. The result of this relationship was that timber specialist Green Oak Carpentry Company was able to work with structural engineer Buro Happold to design a steel clamp that allowed the oak lattice enough flexibility to be moulded into the roof’s characteristic rippled form, and at the same time was able to securely lock the roof’s mesh of hundreds of delicate oak laths into place to form a rigid gridshell. In contrast to that rustic elegance, London’s quasi-spherical City Hall is a sophisticated celebration of glass, steel and aluminium. Designed by architect Foster and Partners and opened in July, the construction of the building’s rounded double-curved facade was a tribute to recent advances in the modelling power of computers. The building’s form was defined by a series of mathematical formulae, with the result that each of its 660 faceted cladding panels was unique in size and shape. Each rectilinear panel was worked out by the precise location of each of its four corners in 3D space. Advanced computerised manufacturing techniques were then employed to fabricate the individual components that make up each panel. And 3D surveying techniques were used to ensure that each was positioned precisely on site. The City of London is host to another of Foster’s iconic buildings – the Swiss Re tower. This curvy creation is already dominating the capital’s skyline, even before it is finished. But rather than experiencing the facade challenges of City Hall, it has been the design and construction of the building’s distinctive steel skeleton that has been the real test on this project. Unlike most high-rise buildings, which are constructed with a rigid core and simple external structure, this tower has a rigid, circular external structural shell and a simple steel core. Structural engineer Arup and steelwork fabricator and contractor Victor Buyck/Hollandia devised an elegant solution to this unique structural challenge using a diagonal grid of intersecting straight steel tubes. The beauty of this solution was that the structural form was repeated throughout the height of the building, even though the floorplates varied in size. And virtually all the steelwork components on each floor were identical, which simplified fabrication and erection. In Scotland, Frank Gehry’s first UK commission is slowly growing its characteristic curves on the banks of the Firth of Tay. Simple fabrication and erection were not top of the architect’s list of priorities in the design of Dundee’s Maggie Centre. The famously technophobic Gehry worked up the design for this tiny building, with its crumpled roof, using 23 3D models. These were then digitised and fed into a computer as a 3D virtual model. The task now is for the construction team to build this challenging building, on which every single curve is different. The onus on this project is on the main contractor, HBG Construction, to translate the building’s curvilinear form from a series of points in 3D space to simple construction information for the benefit of the host of local subcontractors hired to actually build it.
Movers and shakers of ’02John Prescott was called to account for his regeneration achievements at October’s urban summit, and bewildered the housebuilding industry by putting the brakes on key schemes that would have delivered 1274 homes. UCATT secretary-general George Brumwell kept the pressure up on the safety front, but also defended the government’s PFI policies at a rumbustious TUC conference. Paul Gandy, the UK managing director of Australian contractor Multiplex, successfully negotiated his way through the complexities of government, the Football Association and public opinion/apathy to rebuild Wembley stadium. Fashion bigwig Wayne Hemingway helped design a housing estate at the invitation of Wimpey Homes, incurring the disdainful comments of sharp-tongued Building columnist Jonathan Meades – and a war of words ensued. Norman Foster dominated the architectural scene once again. The year began with his strange, ovoid City Hall (page 31) and ended with the topping out of Swiss Re (page 34) – perhaps the most striking addition to London’s skyline since Big Ben. Department of Health PFI supremo Peter Coates was promoted to head of capacity planning. He will try to ensure that the government’s target of building 100 new hospitals by 2010 is met. David Lunts was poached from the Prince’s Foundation to become the urban policy adviser at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Lunts helped organise the well-regarded urban summit at the end of October.
So farewell, then …Sir John Egan stepped down as head of the strategic forum, making way for Stanhope director Peter Rogers. In April he complained about slow take-up of his Rethinking Construction recommendations. Still, we haven’t heard the last of him – he’s now the president of the CBI. Demolition work started on Wembley Stadium as a £420m loan was agreed to build its replacement. The old Wembley was built for the Empire Exhibition in 1924, taking just 300 days to build, at a cost of £750,000. The Football Association plans to turn the rubble from the famous twin towers into souvenir mini-towers, and hopes to sell them for £1m. Unlike Wembley, the former Department of the Environment’s former HQ at Marsham Street will not be missed. It was the all-time biggest blunder in Building’s Wonders and Blunders. The government’s chief architect Eric Bedford designed it in the New Brutalist style. It took 10 years to build and housed the DoE from 1971 until 1997. Demolition started in May, and should be finished next September. For the first half of the year, the media pursued transport secretary Stephen Byers like wolves on the trail of a wounded moose. After a botched attempt to save his special adviser Jo Moore, who said that 11 September would be a good day to bury bad news, the man The Sun dubbed “Liar Byers” finally resigned in May. The Confederation of Construction Clients came to an end in November, less than two years after it was launched in December 2000. It called itself “the single client voice” in the industry, but it was hard to live up to that claim with just 22 members. Few members meant few subscription payments, so the confederation was not financially viable. Companies in crisis have lost some key directors. Atkins finance director Ric Piper left to join Trinity Mirror, but after Atkins’ cash flow problems emerged, Trinity Mirror didn’t want him after all. Piper’s old boss, Atkins chief executive Robin Southwell, quit in November. Amey also lost three directors, but chief executive Brian Staples is hanging on. Unlike demolished buildings, demolished careers can come back with a vengeance – former Amey director Simon Hipperson has joined Skanska. Will other former Amey and Atkins directors resurface? Watch this space.
2002 gets off to a cracking start for Amec boss Peter Mason, architect Nicholas Grimshaw and engineer Nigel Thompson, who are all knighted in the new year honours. But spare a thought for the 25 remaining staff at collapsed regional contractor Bickerton, who start the year on “extended Christmas leave”. The firm’s unsecured creditors are left £4.5m out of pocket, and the Serious Fraud Office investigates. The fallout from 11 September continues: Bovis Lend Lease takes control of the clean-up at ground zero, and the British army looks for construction firms to help rebuild Afghanistan. Bosses launch a management buyout at Laing’s last remaining construction business, Holloway White Allom. Texaco reveals plans to build homes above petrol stations.
Cold winter nights are compounded by the chill winds of recession blowing in from the USA. Two hundred jobs go at M&E contractor ABB Technologies, and 41 staff are axed at Laing’s head office. Arup finishes a £5m stabilisation project on London’s Millennium Bridge and sends 100 of its employees across the footbridge – with a police launch and rescue boat waiting underneath – to check that it worked. The industry’s top brass gets shaken up: Ray O’Rourke poaches Andy White from Alfred McAlpine, and appoints him to run Laing Construction. David Fison replaces Keith Clarke as Skanska UK’s chief executive; Clarke becomes the first Briton on Skanska’s senior board. Iain Napier, former chief executive at brewer Bass, takes the reins at Taylor
Security experts scrutinise high-profile buildings, hoping to find out their weaknesses before al-Qaeda does. They suggest safety measures such as fitting showers to the City of Manchester stadium to cleanse Commonwealth Games spectators contaminated by a chemical attack. Bankers get nervous about the PFI: the £300m compensation to Railtrack shareholders makes them question whether the government is really transferring risk to the private sector, or just hiding exposure in a cloud of complex financial arrangements – which is what Enron did. In a poll by Gallup, American voters give George Bush an approval rating of 80%. In a poll on Building’s website, construction minister Brian Wilson gets an approval rating of 12%.
A busy month for the government: the HSE launches a year-long safety blitz, the new, tougher Part L of the Building Regulations comes into force, and Whitehall says it will cut shortlists and subsidise bid costs in an effort to speed up PFI schemes. The government comes under fire from construction: Egan brands it as a bad client “totally wedded to tendering”, and Lord Rogers attacks the big-spending Budget as “short-sighted” because it boosts funding for health and education, but not regeneration. Football clubs put stadium and stand projects on hold after the collapse of ITV Digital puts their finances on the rack. A leaked report suggests the World Trade Centre could have survived on 11 September if its fire control systems had remained working; Arup tells a BRE conference that buildings must be designed to stay standing for at least an hour after a terrorist attack, so that victims can evacuate.
A new twist to the great footballing rivalry between England and Germany: German bank WestLB announces it will put up £420m to finance the national stadium at Wembley. Consulting engineer Mott MacDonald announces its merger with QS Franklin + Andrews. Architect EDAW is chosen to masterplan the redevelopment of north Manchester. Seven people die in a rail crash at Potters Bar station. Jarvis, the firm responsible for maintaining the track, comes under the spotlight, and its share price drops by half. The far-right British National Party wins three council seats in Burnley, after exploiting local suspicions that Asian communities received most of the town’s regeneration funding. Westbury becomes Britain’s sixth largest housebuilder after buying Prowting for £141m. A RICS report warns that skills shortages and rising construction costs will hamper the government’s plans to improve public services.
After implementing strict security precautions, including putting anti-aircraft missile batteries on stadium roofs, Japan and South Korea host a terrorist-free World Cup. Two reports predict a three-year construction boom, thanks to government spending. A top public official in Lesotho is convicted of corruption for accepting bribes from firms bidding for work on a big dam-building project – Balfour Beatty and Kier are among those accused of bribery. Twenty-nine-year-old junior minister Christopher Leslie takes over responsibility for Building Regulations. Buckinghamshire-based Banner Homes goes up for sale, prompting speculation that other medium-sized housebuilders could follow suit.
A bad month in the City. Share prices tumble in the support services sector, pushed down by a profits warning from Amey and rumours of a cash flow crisis at Atkins. Nine years after applying for planning permission, BAA gets the go-ahead to build Terminal 5 at Heathrow airport. As the industry’s labour shortage worsens, the government backs a scheme to retrain ex-prisoners for work in the construction industry. Nine contractors, including Kier and Wates, appear in court on the same day, to answer health and safety charges after a swoop on London sites by Health and Safety Executive inspectors. Oxford council announces that it wants a 70% affordable housing quota on all new residential schemes. BRE research shows shoddy workmanship on timber frame buildings is increasing the risks of a deadly fire.
Announcing his first results since he bought Laing for £1 last year, Laing O’Rourke chairman Ray O’Rourke boasts that his firm is about to enter the top 10 contractors. The government starts scrutinising a report by Arup backing London’s 2012 Olympic bid. The National Federation of Builders warns that spiralling insurance costs are threatening the livelihood of hundreds of specialist contractors. Barratt announces plans to build 1500 homes on eight former hospital sites. The HSE proposes tough safety measures, including making architects and clients accountable for accidents. Citex sells its facilities management to Carillion and its Asian arm to EC Harris. Thousands of delegates attend the earth summit in Johannesburg to discuss sustainable development. British delegates include RIBA and RICS presidents, but contractors are thin on the ground.
Directors quit support services firm Amey like rats abandoning a sinking ship: finance director David Miller, technology division services head John Robinson and head of programme management Simon Hipperson all leave in the same week. Stanhope director Peter Rogers replaces Sir John Egan as head of the strategic forum. An employment tribunal awards £18,575 to Najif Shah, who left his job because he suffered racial abuse from his co-workers on a Channel Tunnel Rail Link site in Kent. Balfour Beatty comes within a whisker of buying US contractor JA Jones, but its falling share prices scuppers the deal at the last minute. Deputy prime minister John Prescott calls in regeneration quango English Partnerships to drive through the development of Thames Gateway, Europe’s largest brownfield site.
The commercial property market goes from bad to worse. Against a backdrop of falling rents and rising vacancy rates, construction firms look for public sector work to make up for the commercial slump. After months of speculation, Wimpey buys Laing Homes. Atkins’ woes continue: chief executive Robin Southwell steps down as the company’s share price drops by two-thirds in one week. A CITB report recommends ethnic minority quotas on test sites in London. Birse writes off a £5.5m debt owed by Leicester City FC as the relegated football club is put into administration. The Court of Appeal overturns a manslaughter conviction for Brian Dean, a demolition contractor jailed for 18 months after the death on site of two employees.
John Prescott uses the urban summit to attack housebuilders for the low density of their developments. The housebuilders hit back, blaming the government’s restrictive planning policies for the shortage of new homes. The Beijing 2008 Olympics Committee invites the world’s contractors to bid for seven schemes with a total cost of £6bn. Roofing contractor Ray Webber warns the insurance crisis could force subcontractors out of business, bringing sites to a halt. Whitehall appoints education and health tsars to oversee construction of schools and hospitals. The Confederation of Construction Clients folds because of lack of funds. As Australia’s cricketers demolish England in the Ashes, the Australian Institute of Quantity Surveyors complains about the RICS’ “imperialist” drive for members overseas. Construction union UCATT pledges its support to the Fire Brigade Union’s strike, and arranges solidarity visits to the firefighters’ picket lines.
Chancellor Gordon Brown brings some early Christmas cheer by announcing plans to replace the unpopular CIS tax scheme. But Mace and Carillion dampen festive spirits with end-of-year head counts that could lead to redundancies. In a move that could have serious consequences for stadium design, local authorities say football supporters will be prevented from leaving a stadium in the event of a terrorist attack using biological weapons. A quantity surveyor claims he was constructively dismissed by Sir Robert McAlpine for blowing the whistle on fraud on the £63m Scotland national stadium. Transport secretary Alistair Darling offers indemnities against a legal challenge to the consortiums bidding for the £16bn Tube PPP.