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Astragal: Where is Alan Jones?

Alan jones by anthony coleman
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As the profession faces one of the toughest periods in its history, the RIBA president and captain of the Portland Place-based Titan(ic) is nowhere to be seen

In March, Jones emailed members of RIBA Council to say ‘a matter had arisen’ in his personal life and he would be taking a leave of absence. The institute’s staff were told their president would be uncontactable for between four to six weeks. That time is up. 

Readers will be aware that, since those vague statements, the AJ and others have uncovered much more about the reasons for Jones’s absence. In short, the cause is an alleged extramarital affair with an architectural assistant that (would you believe it) went wrong, creating what one RIBA insider called a ‘shitstorm’ for the institute.

As the AJ revealed, external law firm Browne Jacobson is currently carrying out an independent investigation on behalf of the RIBA into, among other things: Jones’s potential exposure to blackmail; a potential breach of confidentiality; and possible breaches of the RIBA Code of Conduct by Jones in relation to ‘personal integrity’.  

Amid the maelstrom, Jones is nowhere to be seen and no date has been given as to when he may return. If ever. In recent weeks, the institute has struggled in the face of the Covid-19 crisis, furloughing a third of its workforce and under assault by former RIBA vice-president of education Simon Allford for being ‘sadly ever-less relevant’. What a time for a ship to lose its captain.

Lloyd’s to dispense with underwriting floor?

Richard Rogers’ famous Lloyd’s building in London’s Square Mile is Grade I-listed, but it has emerged that the coronavirus epidemic could mean changes will have to be made to its internal layout, and to its soaring central atrium in particular.

Lloyd’s chief executive John Neal – who last week estimated that coronavirus-related claims would cost the insurance giant an eye-watering £2.5 billion to £3.5 billion – reckons the current crisis also demands a reimagining of what Lloyd’s does, and that it become ‘more experimental in terms of the flexibility of the space’.

This could include changes to the layout of the building and the formality of insurers sitting at identical desks and the brokers on stools next to them. Some occupiers even want Lloyd’s to contemplate dispensing with the underwriting room entirely.

The story appeared in the FT but some FT readers were unimpressed with such talk. Comments on the online story compared the underwriting room to a ‘piece of art in the home’ and lauded its utilisation of the ‘face-to-face’ model and the buzz this creates.

Lloyd's building interior wikipedia 2011

Lloyd’s building interior wikipedia 2011

Dyson sucks it up

Plans by the UK’s richest person, James Dyson, to create a man-made waterfall at his Dodington Park estate in Gloucestershire have fallen foul of conservationists. The inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner had hoped to enlarge the Grade II*-listed grounds’ Middle Lake, re-contour a dam and create a new ‘cascade’ between Upper and Middle Lakes. 

However Dyson, a known patron of architecture, pulled the application with South Gloucestershire Council following objections to the designs, which were drawn up by Somerset-based architecture practice Llewellyn Harker Lowe. Historic England said the proposals for the landscaped park, which was was laid out by Capability Brown in 1764, ‘would cause harm to heritage significance’ and that it would ‘encourage the applicant to withdraw the current application’.

Another objector, the Avon Gardens Trust, while acknowledging the intentions behind the scheme might be good, suggested the application was ‘not well presented’ and said the trust needed ‘more clarification and detailed information’ to judge the impact of the scheme. 

So no rival to the Hoover Dam for now.

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