One Czech building’s detectors get it wrong, Maggie’s statue plans cause a stir, we reminisce about the original Shell building, touch on Bangkok’s towers, hanker for Hampstead and puzzle over the Tory manifesto

Hansom HT

Reaching new highs

I’m never really surprised at some of the puff that comes in press releases involving architects - especially the more high-profile ones. I was, though, taken aback by architect Amanda Levete’s gushing description of a tower her practice has designed in Bangkok. Called Central Embassy, in the press blurb Levete says of the 37-storey building: “A distinctive new presence on the skyline that is both fresh and exciting, Central Embassy nonetheless feels like it has always belonged here, already a valued part of the city.” Such philosophical musing also makes it all the more surprising one of her song choices on her recent Desert Island Discs appearance was by Westlife.

A handbag!

Plans have gone in for a bronze statue of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, which would be placed on a stone plinth at the back of Parliament Square. But it seems the £300,000 work could reignite a row with daughter Carol, who sent a letter last year to the Public Memorials Appeal, the body that commissioned it, complaining that it did not feature her trademark handbag. Architect Tom Crum, director of Fine Architecture, which has submitted the application, defended the work, saying that the Parliament Square statue of Winston Churchill “does not have his cigar”.

Age-old problem in Prague

One of my hacks was in Prague last week taking a tour of some of consultant Gleeds’ projects in the Czech capital as part of the firm’s silver anniversary celebrations of opening an office in the city. One building was trying out the latest age detection software (one question: why?) when the group walked in and one of its number was identified as having an age of 75. That would make him a pensioner. He seemed surprised with the result, given that he’s 56. He’s either had a hard life or this technology is set to “crushing insult” mode.

Shell-ing out on staff

A colleague popped down to the Shell Centre recently to see how work at the site is going. One of the buildings has now been topped out and talk turned to the original 1950s building. It had an Olympic-sized swimming pool, snooker room and even a shooting range - handy for staff if, after a stressful morning, they could let off a few rounds. Now that’s what I call looking after your employees. Nowadays, the best I can hope for is a few pot plants and popping out to Pret for my lunch.

Tory manifesto waxes lyrical

So I was trawling through the Conservatives’ manifesto and I thought, hold on a minute. I checked the cover, and yes, there it was: Forward Together, authored by the Conservative & Unionist Party. My puzzlement? It stemmed from the following line in the section marked Housing For All. “For too long, careless developers, high land costs and poor planning have conspired to produce housing developments that do not enhance the lives of those living there.” The section went on to say that a Tory government would build “160,000 houses on its own land”, while waxing lyrical about helping councils to build more homes. Thank goodness for the insertion of the phrase “Right to Buy”, otherwise I might have thought I’d stumbled across something dreamt up by Jeremy Corbyn …

Dwelling on North London

Swimming pool

To Hampstead and, hello, a new home has been launched to the market and my ears pricked up when I heard. Perhaps this is the moment when I can move to the well-heeled north London enclave. Described as a turn-key home, whatever that is, I raced through its particulars. Five storeys, five bedrooms, home cinema, garaging (like stabling for horses, I guess, but for cars) and views across the city. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. And all for £22.5m. Blast. For well-heeled, read “well, not quite”.

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