Training not education
Intelligence of a melancholy nature reaches me from the Architects Registration Board. One plan for its total annexation of architectural education, it seems, is to allow anyone to use the title architect who has accumulated enough National Vocational Qualifications (nvqs). These, in case you didn't know, are training-based benchmarks of a technical nature which can be gathered one at a time without time limit. Supervision of this system would pass to the Construction Industry Training Board (honestly), which has a decent track record in training dumper truck drivers and brickies. No doubt university courses could be counted as exemptions in respect of a certain number of nvqs. But the fact is that architecture, alone of the construction industry professions, would have to submit to such inspection. The reason? It's the only one to have protection of title. Perhaps it is time for Astragal to become tough on regulation; tough on the causes of regulation.
Finn de siecle
With all these Aalto exhibitions to celebrate the great man's centenary, it is well to remember his human side. He was very friendly with F R S Yorke. 'When,' he asked Yorke at 5pm on a visit to yrm's offices, 'do we stop work and start drinking?' 'We don't stop work,' a serious-faced Yorke replied to the aghast Aalto, 'we just start drinking' - producing a large bottle of Scotch and a widening smile. After Yorke's premature death in 1962, his younger partners David Allford and Brian Henderson asked if they could visit Aalto. Of course, he replied, come for a weekend to the summer house. The pair travelled out from Helsinki to find Aalto ashen-faced. The reason soon revealed itself. From the shadows came forth Sir Leslie Martin. 'Get him out of here,' hissed Aalto to Henderson. 'I can't get drunk in front of someone who calls me 'lieber meister'.'
Too, too exciting
Despite his new-found conversion to the joys of Zaha Hadid, critic Giles Worsley is urging planners to refuse permission for Daniel Libeskind's Spiral at the v&a. In a Telegraph article he claims it is a 'sad indictment' that the museum is 'forced' to make the same sort of dramatic gesture to attract visitors as has been made by a decaying former steel town in northern Spain (ie Bilbao plus Gehry). The clinching argument? 'There is a very real risk that the Spiral may become an exciting destination in its own right.' Exciting? A building in Britain? We wouldn't want that, would we?
Wooing the old
Actress Fiona Shaw told eminent theatre architects, gathered together for a conference last week, how she had once tried her best to try to lure people out of a disco in Sheffield into a poorly advertised playhouse across the road. Sadly for both professions, it was to no avail. 'They looked at the building as Irish Catholics look at mosques,' she said. 'With a kind of respectful fatality - as if death lies beyond.' Happily, Theatres Trust chairman Sir John Drummond thought people always 'go on about the young', when it was the old that have been frightened away. 'The old have got time and money. You're not going to get Fiona's disco kids. But there's a vast tranche of people watching Vanity Fair on tv.'
Tim Ronalds, architect of the famous Ilfracombe ('Madonna's Bra') theatre, complete with cones, was asked by his local-authority representative at the same conference what the worst moment was in the battle to get it built. It was when a woman asked at a public forum: 'You must have had other ideas - can we see your other schemes?' Or perhaps it was when a cake was produced in the distinctive shape of the project. 'I thought that was going to sink it,' he said. 'The cake wasn't wholly accurate,' replied Ronalds' client. 'It was delicious!'
Richard MacCormac is less than pleased about a recent development at the Heinz. A model of Herbert Baker's alterations to the Bank of England has been placed in a superior position to another model - of Soane's original design. 'It's symbolic of the greatest architectural act of vandalism in the twentieth century,' Big Mac tells me. Happily, the former riba president has an idea about atonement: 'We should take Baker's model outside, and take it in turns to jump on it.'
Never a dull moment
Now that ambitious plans to present the Stirling Prize in Norman Foster's passenger interchange on Greenwich Peninsula have gone by the board, the event has had to revert to Portland Place. I am sure the presence of Peter Mandelson as guest of honour will more than compensate for any disappointment. It is one more episode in the soap opera that is No 66. In the last fortnight alone, staff have resuscitated a heart attack victim in the Oman exhibition; and put up with the indignity of a visitor walking off with the poppy money collection from the front desk.
What are these funny white discs I see pinned to so many lapels, bearing the slogan 'I've met Max Hutchinson'? The Great Man tells me: 'They're badges to promote my show on Greater London Radio. I'm giving away hundreds every week.' Is this a prelude to mayoral ambitions in the capital? Surely we should be told.