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Last updateTue, 30 Nov 2021 10am

Cauldron sets hearts afire, and Hear, hear! to Prince Charles

Construction National blog logoLike everyone else, I gasped in wonder as the Olympic cauldron hoisted itself into place following the lighting of the flames by nine young athletes: each sponsored by a British Olympian. The cauldron, designed by Thomas Heatherwick – himself a trailblazer – was a masterpiece of thoughtful design, with each 'petal' inscribed with the name of a country which will be given it as a keepsake.

It set me looking at other notable Heatherwick designs, from the UK Pavilion at the 2010 Expo in Shanghai to a design for a café on the front at Littlehampton. The latter is set on a long, thin piece of land between the promenade and a sewer pipe, described by Heatherwick as "the shape of a cigarette". Not 'a cylinder' or anything so prosaic, note.

Heatherwick's café design incorporates a large expanse of glass looking out to sea. Large windows have been a hazard to birds for a long time (and not-so-large ones as well, as anyone who has been woken by the sound of several pounds of owl hitting a bedroom window will know). Now a German company has produced a glass which has been described as "bird friendly". The material reflects UV light – invisible to humans but acting as a warning to birds. The idea used to design it is called biomimicry. It was inspired by the web of the orb-weaver spider, which does the same to discourage birds from flying through it and smashing it to pieces.

The first building in the UK to feature the glass, called Ornilux, is an observation tower at Lindisfarne in Northumbria, according to an article in the Architects' Journal. That publication is also currently running a poll on its website on whether RIBA should have an annual sustainability award.

Nearer to home, for me at any rate, and one of my hobby horses, is a report by the BBC on bringing old textile mills back into use as either residential or commercial premises. With the demise of the textile industry many of the mills were wantonly destroyed – an activity which continues today. Quoting research by English Heritage, the report says that 80% of surviving mills are in Pennine Lancashire. They include Brierfield Mill near Burnley, which has been acquired by the local authority with a view to redeveloping it. A similar scheme in Burnley itself frequently welcomes royalty, most recently in May this year when The Queen herself was accompanied by Princes Philip and Charles.

Prince Charles is quoted in the Lancashire Telegraph as saying: "If you talk to people on the ground then they are particularly keen to convert these old buildings and see a new use for them. To knock these buildings down is unsustainable because of the embodied energy that is within them."

By the way, I would love to take up one of the few remaining places on the RICS Time Management course on 22 August, but guess what! Nope, I DO have the time, but I just can't manage it. Actually, I did a time management course some years ago and now spend most of my time deciding what to do next.

Chris Stokes