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Last updateThu, 16 Jun 2022 8am

There’s a lot going on in the North – and the South. And Happy Birthday, Baron Rogers of Riverside!

Logo for Construction National blogWhile engaging in some background research for an article on regional construction activity in the North West, I came across the intriguing fact that there are no fewer than 50 regeneration projects going on in Cumbria alone. That is astonishing. At a time when activity is said to be at a low ebb, with funding dried up and bank lending non-existent, a small rural county in the far North West is virtually re-inventing itself.

How can this be? It is a reflection of an issue the RICS has been banging on about for some time: that the most effective and beneficial infrastructure projects are small in scale and local in scope, employing small businesses that in turn employ local people.

So, here’s to Barrow Waterfront, Derwent Forest Development Consortium, Maryport Harbour and Workington Transport Exchange: they are showing everybody how it’s done.

The same day as I came across that story, I settled down in the evening to watch the repeat of a 2007 Imagine episode in which Alan Yentob celebrates the life and career of legendary architect Richard Rogers. The episode, Inside Out – which has become something of a catchphrase for the great man, was screened ahead of his 80th birthday on 23 July.

I remember having my interest in architecture kindled as an A Level student at tech college. One of the buildings highlighted in a series of General Studies lectures was the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris, which propelled Rogers and his collaborator Renzo Piano to fame. The great feature is that it really is ‘inside out’, with an open exhibition space inside and the services on the outside (in some cases a couple of streets away!) It became one of my all-time favourite buildings and the view of Montmartre from atop its escalator is one of the best in Paris.

Much, much more recently, I was instrumental in the founding of a short-lived national business magazine which featured a cover story on the then-new Lloyd’s Building.

The programme was like a Who’s Who of modern building design. Rogers and his wife studied at Yale with Norman Foster, with whom they formed their first practice. Later, as mentioned above, he worked with Piano, who is now celebrating the completion of the iconic Shard building.

We all wish the venerable Lord Many Happy Returns! And shame on you, Alexander Fury of The Independent, for concentrating purely on his pink Crocs.

While I have been away absorbing my annual dose of sunshine (I came back to a heatwave – how unfair!) the RICS announced its regional award winners in the various categories. The Grand Final to discover the Project of the Year will take place in October and be fought out between projects in four national categories: Building Conservation, Community Benefit, Design and Innovation, and Regeneration. One of the finalists in the Community Benefit category is Kensington Palace, home of the soon-to-be Cambridge family.

Chris Stokes