WHO COULD REPRESENT BRITAIN AS IT IS THRUST ONTO THE WORLD STAGE?
Does anybody have the political alacrity, technical expertise and organisational flair to spearhead construction in the run-up to the London Olympics? Who could withstand the inevitable public scrutiny? Who could represent British construction as it is thrust onto the world stage?
Step forward Sara Fox of Swiss Re.
A fast-talking, wisecracking, larger-than-life American, Fox has an MBA from Stanford, a background at McKinsey, Schlumberger and Olympia & York and a proven ability to get construction professionals - including architects - to deliver their best work.
A British citizen for the past 14 years, Fox has the commanding ferocity of a grande dame in the Thatcher mould - she was known as the Iron Lady at Canary Wharf, where she cut her teeth before joining Swiss Re. She has no overt allegiance to any political party which means that she is unlikely to find herself suddenly out of favour if political fortunes change. Yet she is an adept political player. As the driving force behind the Gherkin, she was well-placed to comment on the relative contributions of individual members of the Foster team, yet managed to dodge the torrent of speculation while still appearing to be frank.
Her previous schemes may not have been on an Olympic scale but they did require the visionary zeal necessary to execute projects which defy conventional accountancy procedures.
This is the woman who famously acknowledged that the business case for the Gherkin 'was not just about the building', adding: 'If we had spent the same amount on advertising we would never have achieved the same brand recognition', and that investment in sustainable design had to be justified in terms of corporate values and social gain. And she might just be available for work.
She leaves Swiss Re at the end of the month.
When asked about her post-Gherkin plans, Fox had just one thing to say: 'How in hell do I match this project next time around?'