Inspired by Valentine's Day and the promise of free champagne, the latest in our series of Projects Reunited is less about reuniting old friends than celebrating those special unions that have stood the test of time. We took four happy couples that met through the construction industry for a trip on the London Eye - including the husband and wife team that designed it, David Marks and Julia Barfield.

The London Eye lit up

Love in a cold climate

Love should be the last thing on the minds of the eight men and women gathered outside the London Eye: they are wrapped in duffel coats and unflattering jumpers as a raw January wind whips off the Thames into their rapidly reddening faces.

But these are four couples that have agreed to take part in Building's Valentine special. Each pair was struck by Cupid's arrow through their involvement in the erotic hotbed that is the construction industry. They have agreed to share memories of those first knowing glances and stolen moments, as well as those irritating habits that can only develop over a long and loving relationship - and all for a few free glasses of bubbly.

The London Eye is the offspring of architecture's most famous mister and missus team, Julia Barfield and David Marks, and they lead the way to the pod that will take the couples 135 m over the capital, providing views that would melt even the coldest of hearts.

Before setting foot in the pod, the couples have to be security checked. Paul Hurford, the managing director of cost consultant Boxall Sayer, whispers to his wife: "It'd be funny if Julia and David weren't let on …"

What is arguably more amusing is that Paul's wife is called Pauline, which even Mr Hurford concedes sounds "a bit sad". He might be self-deprecating, but Paul is also the most enthusiastic about tonight's event, having earlier emailed Building with some incredibly detailed notes of their first meeting. Such minutiae include the exact time that he first clapped eyes on Pauline ("8.45am, 30 December 1971") and the make of lift that she had just stepped in to (an "ancient Otis with trellis gates").

Paul, who was helping out at his dad's QS practice at the time, also included this rather glorious anecdote in the email: "As I approach the lift it is trundling off upwards. On my eye level is a deliciously short skirt, followed by the best pair of legs I've ever seen. Love at first ogle."

The couples by the eye Left to right: Paul Sandilands and Maja Serenski, Paul and Pauline Hurford, Marcus Wilshere and Jacqui Bailey, David Marks and Julia Barfield

Left to right: Paul Sandilands and Maja Serenski, Paul and Pauline Hurford, Marcus Wilshere and Jacqui Bailey, David Marks and Julia Barfield

Couple number one

The secretary and the boss' son

Who they are
The Hurfords - Paul, 52 and Pauline, 51. Met in 1971, married in 1977.

How they met
At the QS practice of Paul's dad, LA Francis & Partners. Paul was helping out on his university Christmas holidays, while Pauline was a secretary. Today, Paul is managing director of Boxall Sayer and Pauline is a medical and legal secretary.

What do you remember about the time you first met?
Paul Seeing those legs disappear in the lift! It was the era of pirate radio, men on the moon … miniskirts. Our generation was very lucky to have been young at that time.

Pauline We first went out for lunch in a little restaurant in Holborn. It seems a lifetime ago now …

Do you talk about work at home?
Paul Yes, when you're running a business it's never far from your mind. I mainly talk about people I've met, not the job - because she has six years' experience as a QS secretary, it can be quite beneficial.

Pauline If you've worked in the industry, you understand that there are deadlines, a lot of tense periods of work.

What's the other one's most irritating habit?
Pauline Paul's is probably not listening. Usually his mind's on his work.

Paul I have to concentrate on one thing at a time. Pauline's is map reading.

Pauline That's not fair. I've got you to lots of places!

Paul Not necessarily the right places though … But I suppose that's more of a male-female thing, not just Pauline, is it?

Pauline Like only being able to concentrate on one thing at a time …

The Hurfords – Paul, 52 and Pauline, 51. Met in 1971, married in 1977.
The Hurfords – Paul, 52 and Pauline, 51. Met in 1971, married in 1977.

The champagne starts to flow

As the wheel begins to turn, David Marks marches over to the champagne and pops the cork. This is despite the presence of a hostess. The impression is instantly etched in everyone's minds: the London Eye is still very much David and Julia's baby.

Julia frowns, and then rushes up to the edge of the pod. "Oh my god! What is that?" she exclaims, pointing to a large logo stuck onto the pod's glass skin. "It's all right," says David soothingly. "It's just an advertisement for the Brit awards. It'll be coming off soon."

But like a father quietly appalled at his errant teenager's tattoo, David does not like the Eye being used for advertising:

"I don't think that there should be any branding on it."

Talk soon turns to the conception, as it were, of the Eye. They had set up Marks Barfield in 1988, having previously co-founded model-making company Tetra with fellow students after they had started dating at the Architecture Association in the 1970s. Bar a short period in the 1980s when Julia worked for Norman Foster, they have spent their entire working lives together.

Marks Barfield had been up and running for four years when The Sunday Times ran a competition for a new London landmark. "David came up with the idea when walking into work one day," explains Julia. It was Julia who came up with the location, by drawing a circle around greater London and finding that the centre point was just by Westminster Bridge.

As the pod reaches that top point, David is moved to mention the twinkle in his eye - lighting the Thames. He points along the river, commenting that few parts are well lit at the moment. He wants to see lights placed along the north and south banks, illuminating the area's rich architecture. About 20 architects and artists would design the patterns. "I'm beginning to talk to people about this. The idea is something for the Olympics in 2012, using new, sustainable technology that lasts 10 years."

Couple number two

The proud parents

Who they are
David Marks and Julia Barfield, both 53. Met in the early 1970s; married in 1981.

How did you meet?
Julia We were at the Architecture Association, but also lived on the same street in Stockwell [south London]. We still live on that street.

David She lived in the pub opposite me. The first time we met was in our friend Andy's house in Crystal Palace.

Julia Really? [Looking impressed]

What's it like working together?
David It works. I think it makes it a lot easier for people in the practice. It's a nice office to work in because we're a couple.

Julia There are so many other people involved - architecture really is a group activity.

Do you talk about work at home?
 It did dominate our lives over years, until the Eye went up in 1999, apart from the children [The couple have three children].

David I remember when the wheel first went up. We were sitting opposite (on the north bank) for the second lift on a Sunday morning - when it went from 30° to 60°.

Julia We could almost reach out and touch it.

What's the other one's most irritating habit?
Julia Mine would be interrupting. He gets annoyed with that because he's impatient.

David Yes, impatience [nodding]. I do get annoyed when interrupted.

David Marks and Julia Barfield, both 53. Met in the early 1970s; married in 1981.

David Marks and Julia Barfield, both 53. Met in the early 1970s; married in 1981.

Recording the moment

Marcus Wilshere snaps away on his digital camera as the wheel turns. "He spends most of his time taking photos," explains his partner, Jacqui Bailey, before gently admonishing him: "Take a day off, please."

Marcus is a director at Urban Initiatives, the planning and design practice, and Jacqui is an architecture assistant and community consultation co-ordinator at John Thompson & Partners.

The couple live in Brixton, and it was through the regeneration of that south London area that they first met in 1993 - he was a freelance consultant working on the £60m Angel Tower scheme and had to be based on the estate for six months. Jacqui lived in the area, was undertaking an architecture degree and was advised to pay Marcus a visit. "It's not exactly part of the RIBA consumer services to date students, but I helped Jacqui for her BA dissertation. It was an excuse to see her outside of work," he admits. Jacqui is a bit less bashful: "It was me who first said, ‘Do you want to come round?'"

Marcus keeps snapping away at the London landscape. Jacqui smiles: "He's very much into cities. He loves it. It's amazing from here looking at the view."

The duo start to get extremely schmaltzy - Jacqui explains how Marcus engraved her iPod for Christmas; he kisses her forehead when she mentions this. She says he is handsome and generous; Marcus points out that Jacqui is generous too. They've both taken up yoga … Building moves to the final couple before it all gets too much …

Couple number three

Mills and Boon

Who they are
Marcus Wilshere, 45, and Jacqui Bailey, 40. Met in 1993.

How they met
He was a freelance consultant for the £60m Angel Tower scheme in Brixton. Jacqui lived in the area and was doing an architecture degree.

What do you remember about the time you first met?
Marcus My office was open for the direct community consultation people. The first time Jacqui entered my office she was wearing a long denim skirt and a blue-and-white striped T-shirt. I can't remember the shoes. I knew she liked me because she was always sitting next to me at meetings.

Jacqui Marcus was wearing a pair of white jeans and a blue polo jumper. I knew I liked him and not just in a professional environment.

Do you talk about work at home?
 It's a thing that we both do actually [both laugh]. Because it's different work, it's okay. I think it's actually quite important that although we don't work together we are in a similar line of work.

Jackie It's very simple: I can understand him, he can understand me.

What's the other one's most irritating habit?
Jacqui What irritates him irritates me.

Marcus We're different but she never irritates me.

Marcus Wilshere, 45, and Jacqui Bailey, 40. Met in 1993.

Marcus Wilshere, 45, and Jacqui Bailey, 40. Met in 1993.

A happy ending

The wheel is descending, and the couples drain their glasses. The romantic setting has clearly had an effect - Paul Sandilands points to the wide grin on the face of his wife, Maja Zerenski: "Almost every moment of every day she's like this. From the moment she opens her eyes in the morning there's a smile. She's full of life."

Just 30 minutes earlier, before the wheel set off, Paul, a director at Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, had mocked his wife, a partner at Davis Langdon, for being "a bean counter".

For David Marks and Julia Barfield the experience is perhaps slightly less special, given that they can get a pod for free any time they like. As the journey ends, the automated voice says over the public address system "… designed by Marks Barfield". Julia smiles: "They have to say that - it's written into the legal agreement." David adds: "No way we'd get mentioned otherwise."

Business, then, has its place even among Valentine's children …

Couple number four

The artist and the accountant

Who they are
Paul Sandilands, 47, and Maja Serenski, 37. Met in 1996, married in 2000.

How they met
They met exactly 10 years ago on the fitting out of the Harvey Nichols restaurant in the Oxo Tower. Maja was with EC Harris, while Paul's team from Lifschutz Davidson, as it was then known, was working for the contractor, Sisk. They ended up working on four or five more projects together for Harvey Nichols.

What do you remember about the time you first met?
 It was not until a year later that the relationship got more personal. The change from business to personal was gradual. We had quite a lot of banter, and then the banter turned into friendship. I proposed on Millennium Eve on the countdown to midnight on the South Bank.

Maja We were at Gabriel's Wharf on the South Bank, where we had our first social meeting. That was the first year of Ken Livingstone's new year's eve fireworks, so it was incredibly crushed. Then an hour later he popped the question.

Do you talk about work at home?
We used to talk about the big stuff and trivia, but not about what was in between. There was a sort of taboo, because professional confidences had to be maintained on the jobs we were working on [Maja nods in agreement].

What's the other one's most irritating habit?
He says I talk too much, and that it's an Eastern European trait. And he's a perfectionist, and that can sometimes be irritating. If something like the washing machine breaks down, he can't help himself, and he will be there till 3am to put it right.

Paul Sandilands, 47, and Maja Serenski, 37. Met in 1996, married in 2000.

Paul Sandilands, 47, and Maja Serenski, 37. Met in 1996, married in 2000.

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