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In Newcastle’s construction industry there’s happiness and nostalgia

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[THIS WEEK] James Pallister heads to Newcastle for a celebration of Ryder Architecture’s 60-year anniversary

Newcastle City Library was one of the first in a wave of new civic libraries built over the past six years, followed by Liverpool and Birmingham, with Manchester to complete in Spring 2014. At the opening of Ryder Architecture’s 60-year anniversary exhibition in the City Library, their client – the library is one of its buildings – described how within five minutes of opening, there was a man on the sixth floor deep into researching his family tree. The library’s previous best visitor numbers was 750,000 a year, but the new one had 1.1 million in its first year, settling to about 930,000.

The night was full of clients, associates and local businesspeople, including the Yorkshireman who brought Hitachi’s new train factory – and many associated jobs – to the region, Geoff Hunton. Some had bittersweet reflections on the changing fortunes of the area. One man in his late fifties looking at the photographs of the practice’s Vickers factory on the north bank of the Tyne reminisced: ‘It makes me think how things have changed. When I was 27, I was a quantity surveyor having meetings with people like the chief executive of Vickers. Now I’m having conversations chasing 3.5 per cent fees on a £120,000 job!’ ‘Aye. We are where we are,’ his pal nodded.

There were happier tales though. Like Keith Armstrong of Kyoob, who set up with three colleagues after his team at the north-east branch of AECOM was scythed from 26 to six. Rather than build up the business again, they decided to go it alone. Their contacts agreed to support them, in work, in kindness, or in stationery. One contact invited them round to his office, told them they would need stationery, threw the Staples catalogue at them and told them to ‘fill their boots’. They are still using those staplers. Two years later, Kyoob has an expanding client list, including the United Nations, for whom it did a job in Vienna. The hand-me-down tables have since been passed on to a charity shop, and bigger ones ordered

Travelling exhibition

Ryder Architecture: Celebrating 60 years, 1953-2013

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