Richard Mason, Connell Mott MacDonald
When Richard Mason visited the Magna site with colleagues to get a feel for the size of the building and what was involved, he was bowled over. 'It's a huge industrial cathedral like structure with this enormous crane hook over your head, ' he says. The first question was how they were going to make use of the space. The original idea, Mason says, was to keep the exhibition at one end and just view the rest of the building. This would have produced fewer structural problems.
Mason examined the building with a senior colleague to try and assess where its real strength lay. 'There were so many unknowns, ' he says. 'It was a building that had developed over its lifetime. Changes had been made, some of them subtle, some not so subtle.'
It was an unusual project in that normally industrial buildings are converted for new industrial uses. 'But Magna was eventually going to be occupied by Mr and Mrs Public. Most of my background experience was in retail.You'd throw open the doors on shiny new finishes at the end of the project.Magna wasn't like this.'
He enjoyed the teamwork. 'There was a good feeling with Marc [Barron] and the M&E group from the start - lots of felt-tip pen work, and Chris [Wilkinson] rolling tubes of cardboard. There was understanding of each other's problems.'
Connell Mott MacDonald is proud of the project and Mason says it has been good for the engineer's public image:
'There seemed to be so much bad news about Millennium projects; it's great to have something positive in the end.'
He sums up the finished Magna project by saying: 'It was a rare example of the original ideas and inspiration turning into reality.'