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Shipbuilders throw down gauntlet to construction

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The boatbuilder which made Future Systems' NatWest Media Centre is moving further into construction rather than shipping, recognising what it branded last week as a 'profitable niche' in the market.

Pendennis Shipyard crafted the interior and the 26 sections of the Lord's Centre off site in Penzance, Falmouth and Holland. This creation has, Pendennis told the aj, generated a number of enquiries from practices, including one from the Richard Rogers Partnership for an aluminium restaurant in the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Joint managing director Henk Wiekens said it intended to do more in the area, using its expertise in the stronger, weldable shipbuilding aluminium.

The firm also worked with Future Systems on its 9m brushed aluminium tunnel entrance to the Comme des Garcons shop in Chelsea, New York (aj 4.3.99), and fabricated boomerang-shaped gutters for a new Sainsbury store in Leeds by Chetwood Associates. 'There's a niche in the market for this kind of thing,' he said.

On the media centre, Pendennis introduced new techniques and solutions borrowed from yacht-building, including specialised insulation, faired and painted exterior finishes and the lining of compound curved surfaces. This crossover of techniques ties in with the recent Egan report which called for the construction industry to use more innovative processes and move towards greater efficiency by aping 'product' design such as cars. Wiekens denied that his firm posed a threat to traditional builders but said he was 'open to offers if the price was right' from construction companies who might wish to appropriate its skills.

Future Systems now hopes to build a large public building as a result of favourable reactions to the centre.

The mcc said it had always intended to have 'outstanding architecture as well as outstanding cricket', calling the new media centre 'one of the finest and most exciting new buildings in the capital'. It added it was 'absolutely delighted' with the building's sculpted form and the punctual finish, in time for the World Cup.

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