The multinational taskforce is tackling the final building on the square – the Warwick Court block that will house investment bank Goldman Sachs – and right now the atmosphere is frantic, with only days left to the handover deadline. A few of the workers have found the time to meet Building and tell us what their experiences have been of working on British sites with British workers, but one or two keep looking at their watches, and our discussion is punctuated by ringing mobile phones. "I'm sorry," says Severio Passetto, an Italian site manager. "We've been really busy – I've worked every Sunday for the past few weeks."
Of the five men, two are Italian, one Hungarian, one Zimbabwean and one German–Irish. Their jobs range from site manager to air-conditioning labourer, and all of them have years of experience in their trade or diplomas from technical colleges. Some have been pulled into Britain by the skills vacuum, while others, like 23-year-old Fazil Patel from Zimbabwe, have come to escape atrocities at home. Others have just drifted into their jobs, like architecture student Stefan Toth, a Berliner who is working as a logistics supervisor.
Most of the men are bilingual but a few have no English. This makes a group conversation difficult, and leads to awkward silences while questions are translated. Is this a problem on site?
"Actually, no," Janos Tatkos, a huge bear-like cladding fixer from Hungary says through Toth, who has offered to translate. "I'm a craftsman and so I just need a diagram to work from. I'm employed by a German company and so I can ask any questions I have in German."
Tito Gaetani, a 30-year-old Sicilian mason who moved to the UK after marrying a British woman, agrees: "It was a little difficult at first because I didn't have much time to go to learn English at a school here. On site it was OK, though – people tried to give me a hand."
Fazil Patel, who is working as a labourer having studied air-conditioning at technical college in Zimbabwe, has a British grandfather and speaks English fluently. He particularly enjoys the social aspect at Paternoster: "The English are the most friendly of all the nationalities on the site. They take to time to speak to you. They're interested in what you have to say."
This hospitality does not seem to extend to everyone, though – especially if you're German. Toth has stopped telling other workers he is from Berlin and now tells them he is half-Irish. This does not seem to have helped – he's still subject to anti-German jibes. Janos Tatkas, has experienced the same problem: "When people find out I'm Hungarian, not German, they are much friendlier."
There is some common ground on the site. One thing all the workers agree on is the tough safety standards on British sites.
Toth tells me: "In Germany we never had an induction, a safety video or anything. Here we have much more. We also have health checks before we join the company." Patel joins in:
"English sites care about us a lot more, and our safety. We have two safety briefings a week."
All the men take a pride in the work they do. Toth, who studied architecture at South Bank University and the University of North London, says: "I won't go back into architecture. I wanted to find out what it really meant to work on the floor. I have now. As an individual, it's what you make of it. It's knowing that you can go home and say: 'I've tried today.' I like that."
So what do they plan to do after Paternoster has finished? Here again, there is common ground. "I want to carry on travelling," Patel says. "I wanted to go to New Zealand before I came here, and now I have some money I might be able to do that." Toth nods:
"I'd like to travel too – there's so much I want to see." Gaetani, who has been quiet for much of the interview, speaks up: "When I came to the UK I was only going to stay for five or six months. Living in London can be really lonely. One day I'll go back to Italy – that's my dream."
Peter Rogers, director of Stanhope and the chairman of the strategic forum, offers some historical perspective on the movement of craftsmen. "There's been a historical tradition of craftsmen moving around Europe to work," he says. "We've always been inherently short of trained skills in this country, so we need these people. And they have good skills. They're often more specialised than ours."
Rogers acknowledges that there can sometimes be problems with a site being such a melting pot, but believes that overseas workers make a positive contribution: "There's always teasing, but building sites are pretty broad-minded places. A lot of work has been put into making them like that."