Nick Raynsford, Tony Fitzpatrick, Bernard Ainsworth, Sir Howard Bernstein, Tom Bloxham, Zaha Hadid

Nick Raynsford (1945-)

The industry's favourite construction minister

Nick Raynsford was construction minister for the duration of New Labour's first term, between 1997 and 2001, a feat which on the back of yet another ministerial reshuffle now seems particularly impressive. Perhaps this is why the industry has a soft spot for the MP for Greenwich and Woolwich, whose current role as deputy chairman of the Construction Industry Council is evidence of his genuine, continuing interest in the construction sector.

As construction minister, one of Raynsford's first challenges, in May 1998, was to steer the Construction Act though its final stages in parliament. This he did admirably, causing Building legal columnist Dominic Helps to describe the act, which brought adjudication to the industry, as "an amazing success story".

Raynsford was also a champion of Sir John Egan's Rethinking Construction agenda, which led to the establishment of the Movement for Innovation. This attempted to change construction from a fragmented industry into a modern sector characterised by partnering and integrated supply chains. "He is widely regarded as the great success as construction minister. Much of the improvement now working its way through is due to him," says David Adamson, the director of construction at the Office of Government Commerce.

In his own words: "I see my job as a combination of creating a climate in which the industry can do well - like unblocking PFI - and helping the industry itself to rise to the challenge, equipping itself to be leaner, more effective and more successful." To Building in September 1997, in his first interview after becoming construction minister.

Three key events:

1986 First elected MP
1997 Appointed construction minister
1998 The Construction Act came into force

Tony Fitzpatrick (1951-2003)

The engineer who tamed the Millennium Bridge

It was shortly before his tragically early death in a road accident that Tony Fitzpatrick enjoyed his most high-profile success - masterminding the taming of the wobbly Millennium Bridge. His impact on the industry, however, is far greater than that.

Born in 1951 in London, Fitzpatrick got a first-class degree in engineering at Leeds University in 1972 then walked straight into a job at Ove Arup & Partners. He headed to Tehran, Iran, in 1976 and when he returned to Britain in 1978 worked on the British Library in London.

Fitzpatrick worked abroad between 1982 and 1986 in Hong Kong, on high-rise buildings including the Shanghai Hilton. He was also involved with Norman Foster's $700m Hongkong Shanghai bank.

In 1987 Fitzpatrick came back to London and became an Arup partner, working on high-profile projects including the Swiss Re Building and the Tate Modern. And then in 2000 he took on arguably his most famous challenge: taming the wobbly Millennium Bridge. After successfully tackling this Fitzpatrick was awarded an honorary fellowship by the RIBA in 2002, a rare accolade for an engineer.

Bob Emmerson, Arup consultant and director of the firm's owning trust, says Fitzpatrick threw himself into everything he did. "He had this unbelievable energy," says Emmerson. "He really went at things hammer and tongs and that was engaging. You didn't always like what he might say, but you have to admire his solutions and he was a very generous man."

In his own words: "When I go to Italy, I'm ‘signor ingeniere' - I'm extremely well regarded. Over here, people think I'm the guy that's come to fix the radiator."

Three key dates:

1987 Became a partner at Arup
2002 Millennium Bridge re-opened
2002 Honorary RIBA fellowship

Tony Fitzpatrick’s most high-profile success was taking the wobble out of the Millennium Bridge

Tony Fitzpatrick’s most high-profile success was taking the wobble out of the Millennium Bridge

Bernard Ainsworth (1947-)

Project director for the Millennium Dome

A project director on a major scheme faces an exhausting enough job without having to defend it on a day-to-day basis. For the three-and-a-half years that Bernard Ainsworth oversaw the construction of the Millennium Dome he had to do just that.

Confronted with critics describing the Dome as "a criminal waste of £758m" and "the cosmic joke of a purposeless edifice", Ainsworth, who worked for the Laing-Sir Robert McAlpine consortium, calmly defended the project time and time again. He appeared unaffected by the immense pressure he was under to prove the critics, and a doubtful nation, wrong. During the build, he once told a journalist that he still spent his weekends up in Yorkshire in his local pub and that he had enough of a sense of proportion to worry about the ales that would be on offer. Though he added that he would be lying if he said a "certain roof" wouldn't also be playing on his mind.

Despite rumours that the project would not be ready on time, Ainsworth's Millennium Dome was fully constructed when the clocks hit midnight on New Year's Eve 1999.

Then it was on to Manchester, where he was chief operating officer for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, which was lauded for regenerating east Manchester. He also pulled off organising the £12m opening and closing ceremonies without a hitch, the most lavish in the Commonwealth Games' history.

Now at construction consultant Atkins, Ainsworth is working on the company's London Underground work.

In his own words: "I've always liked big projects. You have more control, you can put your arms around them and make them happen."

Three key dates:

1999 Millennium Dome
2001 Awarded OBE for services to construction
2002 Commonwealth Games

Sir Howard Bernstein (1953-)

Council leader behind Manchester's regeneration

As terrible an event as the IRA bomb that exploded in the heart of Manchester in June 1996 was, one man saw in it an opportunity to revitalise one of the UK's most down-at-heel cities. In 1996, Howard Bernstein was deputy chief executive of Manchester council; within two weeks of the explosion, he was installed as chief executive of Manchester Millennium, a public-private partnership dedicated to the task of rebuilding the city centre.

The programme cost nearly £1bn, and involved the creation of architect Ian Simpson's iconic £43m Urbis museum, the entertainment and leisure complex Printworks - now known to revellers across the country - and the Millennium Quarter, with its designer shops and flagship Marks & Spencer store.

Not that his regeneration plans were stuck in the inner city. His successes also included the 230,000 m2 Spinningfields office district and helping to mastermind the 2002 Commonwealth Games - which as an after-use provided a new stadium for Bernstein's beloved Manchester City.

Chris Brown, chief executive of Igloo Regeneration, says: "I am not aware of another city council chief executive who was born and bred in the city they work in. It brings a passion that is hard to recreate. Also, Howard is the most entrepreneurial chief exec I've come across - and we need these guys, risk takers. Howard would take risks but he would always convince everyone around him, including the government, that he was right to do so. That's an amazing skill."

In his own words: "Manchester is reinventing itself, regenerating itself as a place for business, to visit and to live."

Three key dates:

1996 Appointed chief executive of Manchester Millennium
1998 Appointed chief executive of Manchester council
2003 Knighted

The Great Northern Square in Manchester

The Great Northern Square in Manchester

Tom Bloxham (1963-)

Co-founder and chairman of Urban Splash

When Tom Bloxham joined forces with architect Jonathan Falkingham 13 years ago to form Urban Splash the company was a pioneer; now many have followed its lead. Urban Splash led the way in residential-led regeneration in Manchester and Liverpool, and has since brought its brand of contemporary urban living to other cities. In the process, the company has regenerated such landmarks as Manchester's Affleck & Brown department store and Birmingham's Rotunda.

Jon Ladd, chief executive of the British Urban Regeneration Association, says: "Tom Bloxham is an outstanding example of a regeneration professional who combines the hard-nosed commercial acumen and pragmatism of the private sector with a social conscience that has acted as a catalyst for the regeneration of areas others may have considered ‘untouchable'."

Gaining an MBE eight years ago may have made Bloxham a pillar of the establishment, but at heart there is still something of the maverick student who travelled to Manchester to study politics and modern history and supplemented his student grant selling pop posters. He still challenges convention, whether by turning up to meetings at MIPIM in sandals or, more seriously, questioning regeneration shibboleths.

As Ladd says: "A decision by Urban Splash to work in a particular town or city immediately has a positive effect on the area."

In his own words: Bloxham has often quoted the oath sworn by the Athenians: "We will leave this city not less but greater, better and more beautiful than it was left to us."

Three key dates:

1993 Co-founded Urban Splash
1998 Redeveloped Manchester's landmark Affleck & Brown department store
1999 Developed Old Haymarket, Liverpool

Urban Splash’s Travelodge conversion in Liverpool, just one example of the company’s regeneration work in the city

Urban Splash’s Travelodge conversion in Liverpool, just one example of the company’s regeneration work in the city

Zaha Hadid (1950-)

First woman to win the Pritzker prize

Zaha Hadid made history in 2004 when she became the first ever woman to win the Pritzker prize, the architectural industry's highest accolade.

For years, however, Hadid was known as the paper architect. Her reputation was based on sketches and computer renderings but was not recognised when it came to the thorny business of winning competitions, especially in the UK. Since establishing her own practice in London in 1980, following a period as partner at Rem Koolhaas' Office for Metropolitan Architecture, it took 14 years for her first building to be erected.

Distinguished by sharp angles, flowing lines and dramatic juxtaposition, the Baghdad-born Hadid's work is often described as radically modernist. These intense designs do not always have mass appeal. In 1994, having won a commission for the Cardiff Bay Opera House in Wales, she fell victim to local politics and the project was never built.

But since the late 1990s, things have greatly improved. Her Rosenthal Centre for Contemporary Arts in Cincinnati, USA, from 1998 has been hailed as a masterpiece, while the BMW Centre in Leipzig, Germany, was on the shortlist for the Stirling prize in 2005.

And now, after 25 years in practice in the UK, Hadid has finally won her first UK commissions that will almost certainly be built: the new headquarters for the Architecture Foundation and the aquatics centre for the 2012 Olympic Games, both in London.

In her own words: "There's a world which you, as a woman, no matter how successful you are, can't enter into. You are not part of a network. You know, it takes you a long time, let's say, to come over these things."

Three key dates:

1980 Established London practice, Zaha Hadid Architects
2002 CBE
2004 Won Pritzker Prize

Zaha Hadid has finally been commissioned for UK projects, including the aquatics centre for the 2012 Olympics

Zaha Hadid has finally been commissioned for UK projects, including the aquatics centre for the 2012 Olympics

Opposite page: Manchester city centre has undergone extensive regeneration in the past 10 years