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Space odyssey

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The glitterati were out for a debate on London's office stock at Bene's headquarters on St John Street in Clerkenwell last week. They included cosmopolitan fop and former RIBA president Maxwell Hutchinson, president of the British Council of Offices Paul Morrell, heritage heart-throb from SAVE Adam Wilkinson, and Lee Mallett, property adviser extraordinaire. Needless to say, prompts by Hutchinson for any gleaming insights and searching questions from the audience fell on stony ground. That is, of course, until the beam of his searchlight fell on the RIBA's Charles Knevitt, who was coerced into ad-libbing a statement on the proposition 'does London need more office space?' The diplomat in him came to the fore, so he sat on the fence, uttering that, well, both sides had a bit of a point, really, and that 'shouldn't everyone just get along?' It was a thankful escape from a debate over varied reports regarding how much office space actually is vacant in London - the figure ranged between 1.8 million sq m and 4.6 million sq m, with no one seeming to know the true statistic. This appeared to cloud the judgement of those present, with no one asking the vital question: why was all this dross built in the first place?

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