“You have to understand Paul that we are building a structure designed to last twenty-five years,” sneered the consulting engineer as we sat in a site meeting on a high rise construction site just inside the City of London.
I sighed deeply and let the matter of cladding fire protection water tanks slide and pondered nearby St Paul’s Cathedral, wondering what Christoper Wren would have thought about the mediocre architecture being thrown up around his masterpiece.
The consulting engineer was a suitable person to build mediocre buildings, he and his firm were only on the project by virtue of the property developer being from the same masonic temple and the calibre of their shoddy and visionless work reflected their suitability for the project.
Apart from the pedestrian architecture and engineering, the lack of foresight extended through poor design right through to not allowing enough for future expansion of the building’s communications – by the early 1990s it had already become apparent modern office towers were going to need plenty of space for network cables and the lack of which probably contributed to the structure being totally refurbished in the mid 2000s.
That day was the beginning of the end of my engineering career as I found I didn’t much care for being patronized by mediocrities all too often encountered in the building industry in the mid 1990s.
At the time most of the architecture in London was pedestrian and bland late Twentieth Century mirror glass. The real tragedy being that modern construction techniques give architects and builders possibilities that Wren couldn’t have dreamed of.
Thankfully London snapped out of that era of mediocrity and today building like The Gherkin, The Shard and London City Hall show what’s possible with imagination and modern building techniques, although things can go wrong.
Mediocrities patronizing those who don’t share their narrow, bland look on life will always be with us, thankfully we don’t have to accept them in our lives.
If we want to build great things that push the boundaries or change the world, then those grey mediocrities have no role in our lives.
Where that consulting engineer and his masonic friends are today, I have no idea but it’s not likely they built any of the iconic buildings that now dot London’s skyline.