Lord Foster may have accepted his right-hand man's resignation graciously – but will Norman be so benignant now that three of his staff have run off to join Shuttleworth's new venture?
Ken Shuttleworth has doggedly claimed that his resignation from Norman Foster's office in November was amicable. It's doubtful whether the two are so pally now, following the news that two project directors and an architect have left Foster and Partners to join Shuttleworth's fledgling architectural practice.

Project directors Sean Affleck and Jason Parker, and architect James Thomas will join Shuttleworth next month at his temporary offices in London's West End. Shuttleworth, who has not yet come up with a name for his firm, says he and his team will start working on projects in two to three months' time.

Shuttleworth decided to leave Foster and Partners after 29 distinguished years at the company. He left on a positive note, saying that his time with Foster had been "richly rewarding and a deeply satisfying experience". Foster himself was just as effusive and said how much he "valued Ken's remarkable contributions over the years".

But rumours in the industry suggested a rift had developed between the two. A catalyst is thought to have been a Building interview a year ago in which Shuttleworth revealed that the designs at least one landmark building originated from his pen.

Known as Ken the Pen since his days at Leicester Polytechnic, the architect has long been known for his drawing abilities. In the interview, Shuttleworth said that the Swiss Re tower was one of those buildings based on a sketch of his. He has also been closely involved with many more of Foster's key schemes such as the GLA building, Wembley Stadium, Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok airport and Commerzbank, Frankfurt.

Shuttleworth's skill has now become recognised. "He is one of the best hidden talents in the UK," said Sir Stuart Lipton, chairman of CABE. "I don't know anybody who can draw and design like him."

The Building interview hinted at the kind of schemes that might now be taking shape on Shuttleworth's drawing board. He spoke of mixed-use, low-energy buildings, with a substantial public element, and said that tall buildings would continue to thrive because of the pressure on land. If this is his focus it puts him firmly in Norman's patch.

In the world of architecture, 2004 is set to be an interesting year. There is a major new player on the block who will be seeking work from some of the biggest clients in the business. As if any proof of this were needed: Shuttleworth enjoyed a spot of lunch this week with Harry Handelsman, the influential chief executive of the Manhattan Loft Corporation.