Thursday, February 16, 2006

Birmingham conferencing - Day 2

Well I'm drafting this entry off-line while on the train on the way back to London - the conference is all over, and in the end it was a bit of a fizzer. The final day's presentations were not much improvement on the first, and with some big happenings back in Westminster, all of the MP's who were scheduled to speak and expected to create some important policy discussions were unable to get there, and their public servant replacements just didn't make the grade nor draw the crowds. We made the most of last night however, with the team from the Agency tucking into a few bottles of red after dinner in one of the 14th floor rooms we had, overlooking the city and red and white lit trails of traffic below. It was a sad way for all of us to spend Valentine's Day night, but it was good company nonetheless.

After the last conference session earlier this afternoon, we headed back to the city centre from the convention centre and work collegue Robin (an Urban Design Manager at work) and I toured around the CBD, and I got to see for the first time the amazing Bullring Shopping Centre redevelopment. This complex is home to the best retail stores I've seen in the one place outside of central London, and includes its own very modern and unique Selfridges department store, one of only a few Apple Retail stores outside of the U.S. and Japan, an amazing range of mens and womens boutique fashion stores, and every other major brand you can think of all spread across several brilliantly designed mall areas, which use large span glass roofs and big open spaces to give the feeling you are on a pedestrianised street which is simply continuing from outside, and certainly anywhere but inside a shopping centre. The external treatments of the centre are just as impressive as the interiors, topped off with the eye-catching external facade of the Selfridges building, which sits at the end of the one of the buildings, and very much in stark contrast to the adjacent historical St Martin's Church (see adjacent photo).

It was also a great help having Robin, and also the other team Urban Design Manager Rodney (another Aussie) there at the conference and with me while I walked around the city - these guys really know there stuff and add to however I might be personally interpreting a development in my 'planners' mind.

And just a note that breakfast in the hotel this morning was fantastic! Amongst the standard fare they even had an 'egg bar' just like at the Sheraton Noosa!! Custom-build ommlettes made on-demand in a frypan in front of your eyes by one of the chefs.. My obsession with the 'egg bar' concept continues the world over!

The train's just passing through Milton Keynes, so I'll be back into London Euston soon. I can't wait to see Carly after missing Valentines Day yesterday. We've got heaps to do with the move to the new flat under a week away now.

-shane

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