Just don’t mention Time Team…

Archaeologists may seem far removed from modern concerns, but they’ve been badly hurt by the property downturn. Much of modern archaeology is prompted by development and if no one’s building, there’s nothing to dig up. I interviewed three archaeologists for Construction Manager magazine about fighting with builders, the unglamorous side of being Indiana Jones and how they can survive the downturn.

Any flavour as long as it’s Pizza Express

In January, I wrote an article for Time Out about something that’s been worrying me for a while: how chain restaurants are devouring the streets of London. During the construction boom, big “mixed use” schemes that claimed to be transforming vast swathes of the city were all the rage. What developers didn’t mention was that they would be transforming everywhere into exactly the same place. Now you walk through New Street Square and it’s almost identical to Bankside, and Spitalfields, and the South Bank, and Paternoster Square… I took to the streets to find out why developers display such a depressing, and dangerous, lack of imagination.

Seminars in cyberspace

In November, as part of my events editing role at Building magazine, I devised, planned and presented four “webinars” as part of our Virtual Grad Fair – kind of a clunky version of Second Life but probably more useful… Half-conference call, half-Powerpoint presentation, the webinars were viewed by several hundred students over the course of the fair, and are now available on demand. If you can be bothered to create a user ID, you can hear about working abroad, graduate schemes, work placements and how women who didn’t study construction are getting into the industry anyway. And whatever happened to Second Life? I spent a week there back in February 2007 – the architecture wasn’t up to much and urban sprawl reigned

Site canteens, jenga, watermelons and karaoke

One of the best things about being features editor of Building magazine (March 2005-2008) was organising ridiculous stunts, like this site canteen competition, a jenga tournament and the £6 house , inspired by John Prescott’s £60,000 housebuilding competition, where the winning team hollowed out a watermelon and constructed a picket fence from cucumber. But the most surreal was the Pub Olympics, where construction types got far too competitive over a quiz, table football, pool and karaoke. It culminated with a prominent construction lawyer belting out “Delilah” and making the cover…

Phase One networking evenings

I organised the latest of Building magazine’s Phase One networking evenings for younger people in construction in Bristol, on the slightly tangential subject of public art. It’s a big deal up there – and not just because of Banksy (apparently the city council have instructed their graffiti scrubbers to turn a blind eye to his million-dollar stencils). I was much more impressed by strings of neon lights hanging over our heads and the interactive lightwall that mirrors shoppers footsteps in lights – even though it wasn’t working.

Building Gulf supplement

I spent much of the summer writing and editing a 56-page supplement on construction in the Middle East for Building magazine, published in October. This involved spending a week in the sweltering July heat dashing around Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar meeting industry types and touring new developments. Highlights included meeting the architect of the Burj Dubai, the tallest building in the world, getting a tour of Balfour Beatty’s new worker camp and spending two and a half hours trying to find a building site in Abu Dhabi with three different maps… But the most striking thing was that the Gulf’s developers are not only building taller and taller towers, but vast cities from scratch.