The Regional Director for Nigeria had moved on to be Project Director on the new £500m HSBC Headquarters in Hong Kong, he arranged for me to join the project as Coordination Manager, initially based in London and later in Hong Kong.
Wimpey was in joint venture with local company John Lok as management contractor. The project was not only large but very innovative, it was not just a question of managing the design but also the process of product development. Things that are taken for granted now were developed especially for the project, such as the raised floor system with floor outlets, the toilets and plant modules and the innovative structure with steel masts and hung floors to maximise clear open space.
Foster + Partners was the architect; at 17:00 each day I would sit down with the local MD and go through the project looking at instructions to make sure that there were no significant items that would impact cost and programme , we also reviewed design progress and any issues of the day.
Each fortnight I would chair design progress meetings with the consultants based on packages of work required, the consultants were all represented by senior management.
A big coordination problem was the administration of drawings and issuing instructions to the various trade contractors, by the end of the project I had signed over 22,000 instructions! I did request a computer to keep track of the drawings but that was too expensive so we used record cards, 500 shoe boxes and 22 chinese clerks.
In 1985 the project received practical completion of the first phase, my personal contract was drawing to a close, so I decided to return to the UK where a head office appointment as Group Proposals Manager awaited me.
I spent three years in the role. Nearly every Friday was a deadline one way or another, especially for smaller regional submissions. There were a number of larger proposals, particularly for four Candu nuclear power stations for Portugal. This involved frequent liaison with and visits to Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, it took several years to put the proposals together, finally they were ready for submission and Chernoble happened!
A proposal was received in 1987 for the construction manager for the £500m Trident Submarine Base, Coulport and Faslane, many of the HSBC team were included in the proposal, I was allocated the role of deputy project director. Wimpey was successful with the proposal so we moved up to Scotland.
The nature of the project means that I cannot give details.
I never know what the next telephone call will bring; this time it was Foster + Partners asking me to join the Practice as an associate, to sort out problems which it was having on Kings’ Cross Master plan. This was a big decision to leave mainstream contracting and enter the world of architecture. Wimpey did its best to try to keep me, but in the end I liked the new challenge which Foster could offer me and I joined on the first day of 1989.
So I ended the decade resolving the problems on Kings’ Cross, which were not that immense, and importantly changing and implementing Practice procedures and systems ahead of the move to the new headquarters in Battersea. In doing so my strategy was to keep architects earning fees and let administrators do what they are good at.