Last night's BBC 2 docusoap on St Pancras focused on an engineer who looks 14 and another who can't wait to resign. But who are these people and why should we care? Gus Alexander is as unmoved by the programme as he is by the project itself
Putting buildings together can be quite an exciting enterprise. Especially if the building itself is something of merit. It can of course be dismal and frustrating. In many cases it can be both.
A few years ago we saw a documentary on the building of the Reichman Brothers' tower at One Cabot Square. This was a series of three 60 minute programmes, which conveyed something of the Lobster’s Quadrille that is the relationship between the three key players in any building project: the client, the architect, and the builder.
It was quite entertaining but One Cabot Square is not a particularly wonderful building. Unlike the building that was at the centre of a documentary on the building of Kansai Airport. This was a very much more interesting film. Not only because Kansai is a truly remarkable architectural achievement, but because the clash of cultures between the Japanese corporate client and Renzo Piano, the ultimate artist architect, created enormous amounts of conflict. The basis of all drama is conflict, and drama is what documentary film-makers love.
I don’t know if it is because St Pancras International is not a very wonderful building, or if it is because it is not really possible to identify the players in the drama, but I wasn’t especially gripped by the first two episodes of The 800 Million Pound Railway Station and last night’s seemed to be more of the same. It is a bit like watching Formula One on the TV. The aficionados can practically tell you the fuel mix by the key of the engine noise as the cars take the corners but I couldn’t even tell you which driver is in the lead.
This programme seems to be centred round the abilities of Clare, a female engineer who looks about 14, to bully all the tradespeople into doing their job properly to the satisfaction of Ailee, a female project manager who looks about 15 and a half.
Last night’s episode featured the snagging of a glass balustrade. It was clear that this had not been built very carefully but it was not clear why this had not been picked up at the time.
The side show was an older male Mark, who was resigning to go and work in Qatar. Well good luck Mark but who are you working for on this project? The builder? The client? The structural subcontractor? And what sort of engineer are you Clare? And who do you work for? And what about architect Alistair Lansley? On who’s behalf are you bursting into tears? And what about Norman Foster, isn’t he something to do with this? And who is actually building it, apart from someone with a big supply of jackets with CTRL on the back?
Tonight we find out about the shops. How to fit out an Upper Crust sandwich outlet in a purpose-built station retail outlet. How challenging is that? I can barely wait.
- The 800 Million Pound Railway Station is on BBC 2 at 10pm