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Development joins world of new ideas


What a remarkable city Dublin has become in recent years. Its £2 billion-boosted economy, courtesy of the ec, is manifest in the liveliness of the city, the nightlife, and the new buildings. There are gruesome reminders of universal commercialism (Planet Hollywood on St Stephen's Green a particularly crass intrusion), but nevertheless a wonderful place to work and, I should imagine, to live. Ironically, its escape from the worst sort of property development of the 1960s and 70s made it a doubly acceptable venue for the British Council for Offices to hold its annual conference, including a splendid dinner where the Irish senator David Norris gave a brilliant after-dinner speech to an enthusiastic audience of more than 600.

The hospitality was by no means the only welcome thing about this conference, which consistently manages to stimulate and inform through well-presented and analysed case studies. You could listen to Frank Duffy on the new nomadic lifestyle of the management elite, in which to have a permanent desk marks you out as an old-style office worker; or Andrew Chadwick explaining how Andersen Consulting now runs its Paris office like a five-star hotel, all office space having to be reserved, and the building being reconfigured every single day depending on what staff are required. Or you could hear Bryan Avery describing how to put plant and equipment in end-walls, releasing the top space for highly valuable offices. Or Spencer de Grey explaining how the German Greens influenced the design of the Commerzbank in Frankfurt. And so on.

What struck me was the difference in tone of the delegates from the time not so long ago when the theory of office design and office occupation was something Stuart Lipton could get excited about, but was not really for the property world in general. Very different in Dublin; this was property for grown-ups, but happily the Guinness flowed just as fast as in the days when obtaining introduction fees was chiefly about your old school tie.

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