Question: What do Mongolia’s mining boom, $225bn of deep-water drilling in Brazil, the rising threat of terrorism in Asia, European financial regulations, cyber-risks, Qatar’s growing SME sector, and the difficulty of predicting natural disasters in Australia and New Zealand all have in common?
A floating swimming pool off the shore of New York is the kind of idea that would usually sink without trace, so to speak, at a time like this. But it’s just one of the weird and wonderful projects set to go ahead thanks to thousands of dollars pledged by internet users around the world. This is crowdfunding, where those with a much-cherished idea but no money seek many small donations online. Websites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and ArtistShare are now a major source of arts funding – Kickstarter alone will distribute more than the US’ National Endowment for the Arts this year. Now an online platform that helps artists find a wider audience is being adopted for the very real world of public space, to pay for projects including a community centre in Wales, an underground park (NY again), a footbridge in the centre of Rotterdam and a rooftop aquaponic farm in King’s Cross. In this piece for Modus magazine, I asked how well the model translates – and whether crowdfunding could ever replace government funding for community projects.
Wanted: a senior civil engineer, with a strong commercial background and experience of working in Asia, currently serving on the board of a FTSE 100 company. There aren’t many men with that CV, but this was the brief given to headhunters seeking the first female non-executive director for FTSE 250 company Balfour Beatty earlier this year. If such a person exists, they have yet to find her. In the end, the contractor had to look overseas and outside the industry — Canadian Maureen Kempston Darkes is a former group vice president of General Motors and a lawyer by training. Since 2011’s Davies Report highlighted the under-representation of women in British boardrooms – just 12.5% of the boards of FTSE 100 companies were female, and it would take more than 70 years to achieve gender parity at the current rate of change – there has been progress, but construction still lags behind other industries. As Balfour Beatty’s experience shows, there just aren’t that many senior women coming up through the ranks, and those who have made it almost always have an HR, finance or marketing background. In this piece for Construction Manager magazine, I asked how companies can ensure a ready supply of female board members for the future – without resorting to (whisper it) positive discrimination.
Summer’s Concrete Quarterly, which my company Wordmule produces for UBM and the Concrete Centre, told the story of the 13th Maggie’s Centre, just open in Swansea. These buildings are notable both for the quality and warmth of the care they provide to cancer patients, and the list of internationally renowned “starchitects” queueing up to design them. The Swansea centre was conceived by Japanese legend Kisho Kurokawa, before he died in 2007, who imagined a swirling, dragon-tailed “cosmic whirlpool”. Now project architect Garbers & James has brought his napkin sketch to life, moulded from concrete and studded with titanium panels. Read all about how they did it here.