Monday, June 30, 2008

Steven: Cycling Europe for charity

As we reported earlier on these pages, Jon Bradshaw (left) and Marco Barcella (middle) left London on 19th June 2008 on their quest to raise £20,000 (€28,000) for European stroke charities with a goal of cycling 3000 miles (4800km !!!) in 91 days through 9 European countries. After a gruelling 200 km journey from Amsterdam to Antwerp - where Marcel helped them to some champagne and a steak to save them from complete starvation - on Tuesday June 24, they left for Brussels on Thursday. This promised to be an easier ride than their previous one, but without the right directions, they might have ended up in Paris instead, if they had the same luck as two days before. But no worries, I jumped to the rescue, and guided them to Brussels. As the editorial officer of MIM and HeadQuarters Magazine I had read all about their fantastic initiative and was more than happy when they suggested that I could ride along with them when they were in Belgium. I only hoped I wouldn’t add any unnecessary miles to their already enormous route. We got to Brussels in one piece but not without experiencing the friendliness of the bike shop mechanics in Boom... He spent more time in growling that he already had too much work than it would have taken him to release Marco from the squeaking sound in his pedal. What a fun guy... Getting closer to Brussels, the traffic got worse as well. We didn’t need any exfoliating cream afterwards, the heavy trucks and the dust and sand they blasted into our face had the exact same effect, only less pleasant. At the Crowne Plaza Le Palace we received a friendly welcome and the people there were glad they could provide the two heroes with a comfortable bed for the night.
In the evening, MPI held their summer drink in the NH Atlanta Hotel in honour of the two cyclists who were flanked by Willy Devriesere, who now represents STROKE - the Belgian association for stroke victims - but who also suffered from a stroke. Milo Vergucht and his colleagues at MPI had another surprise for us: we could all enter a raffle to predict the score of the Spain vs. Russia game to win some nice prizes. Of course, no one was able to predict the 3-0 but that didn’t matter, after all, the money they collected went straight to the Belgian chapter that helps stroke victims.
And the next day, their journey led Jon and Marco to Aachen, but you can read all about their trip on their website and don’t forget to press the big Donate button!

Monday, June 23, 2008

A female building in Singapore

The last few weeks I was wrapped up in the interiors of convention centres from all over the world, while I have to admit that it was their exteriors which fascinated me the most. Just like the way you look at people, right? The architecture of new convention centres, that’s what it was all about, and more specifically the female side of architecture. I have found a lady architect - and there’s only one - who created a convention centre in Cape Town in 2003. Anya Van Der Merwe Miszewski (picture above) was leading designer of the CTICC. You can read the interview with her in HQ Magazine No.27! The talk we had made me think about female elements in convention centres. Or is there something like female architecture? A little research has taught me that The Singapore Esplanade (see picture) has some female forms. And now that the AIPC Annual Conference is held in Singapore, it may be nice to take a closer look to that building. Jackie Craven wrote in ‘Architecture and Sex’ , with obvious references to The Singapore Esplanade: ‘Some architecture critics believe that ‘female’ architecture is architecture that seems to express femininity. There is something womanly about the building's shape, size, proportions, color, or texture. Curved shapes may suggest the womb. Perhaps you long to crawl inside the building and curl into a fetal position. The dumpling-shaped Esplanade in Singapore has a round shape that might be called feminine.’
I must add that the Esplanade is built by men! Can someone see whether a building is designed by a woman? Conference delegates, keep an eye out for that building! Could it give you some inspiration for a congress centre of the future? I could see us all lying there in fetal position during a congress, nicely in the middle of the building!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Who is Sir Van Couver?

You’d better address the city of Vancouver as Sir or Ms Vancouver or even as Ms Lee Vancouver, whatever suits you best. Vancouver and Toronto are unique cities of the world where different cultures live in perfect harmony. You can notice a lot of Asians in the city but they are Canadian. After my visit to Vancouver I am definitely convinced that a city with only European citizens is a dull city. Vancouver is the host for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. This is why I call the city Mr Van Couver. I was in the city for four days for the Invitational Forum on Leadership & Management (ASAE).

Let me introduce you to my host: Richard Yore. He was born in America and raised in Canada. You will find him on the left side of the picture, the person on the right is his boss Dave Gazley. Richard has to promote his city abroad to conference, congress and incentive organizers. He does this with a certain amount of flair, helped by eyes who are colored a special shade of blue. I came across that kind of blue quite often in Vancouver. I have invented a new definition for this particular shade: Canadian blue. Just like you have Delft blue or cobalt blue. Canadian blue consists of more cyanide than just blue, but not too much otherwise it turns green. In Canadian blue there's something naughty, the sparks just fly! That is what makes Canadian blue so attractive. Canadian blue represents tranquility (physiology) and satisfaction (psychology). Why does milk always get wrapped in blue cartons? Because blue is strongly related to purity. Maybe the city of Vancouver should do something with blue, create an image. Build a blue building for instance. Canadian blue, that is what I love.

I was accompanied in Vancouver by one other Belgian who was also fascinated with blue. Luc Hendrickx, director of the IDF congresses told me that every year his company has buildings all over the world turned blue for diabetes day. In October 2009 he will be organizing the 20th World Diabetes Congress in Montreal which will have more than 15,000 delegates from over the whole world. Maybe that's why we were welcomed so solemnly by Her Majesty Queen Liz of Victoria. (Liz is very close to the Queen of England) ‘Your Majesty, can I give you a kiss on the hand?’ - ‘Definitely Sir, as long as you keep it at one kiss.‘
‘Can I kneel for you, Majesty?’ - ‘Certainly Sir, as long as you don’t kiss my feet.’
Luc Hendrickx acted very relaxed in the presence of Her Majesty. He is used to talking to Sheiks and Emirates.
‘Madame, how are your children and grandchildren?’ - ‘Oh, Sir, can we just enjoy the evening?’

The first step I take in the elevator of the Pan Pacific Hotel of Vancouver, makes me suspect that it’s Wednesday. With a difference of 9 hours between the North of Europe and this part of North America it’s very easy to lose your way. We always know what time it is abroad but sometimes you don’t recognize the days. ‘Once there was a elderly lady from NY visiting’, Marie Rogers, Manager Public Relations, told me, ‘who asked the receptionist why all our four elevators carried the name Wednesday. Because it is Wednesday today Madame, the receptionist answered. So tomorrow there will be a carpet with Thursday on it? Most definitely Madame, seven different names a week!’
I’ve asked my three hostesses if the carpet could also have a different color for each day. I will let you guess which day will be blue. In October during the ICCA congress in Victoria BC, about a half an hour flight with the Seaplane from Vancouver, I pop into the Pan Pacific Hotel again to check which color Saturday and Monday are. I think Canadian blue? Do you know why I think that? You’ll have to ask me in a comment (see below)

If you see the chef of The Fairmont Hotel Of Vancouver in action, then you will definitely be in a good mood and you will be hungry! Who isn’t hungry will surely grow an appetite in seconds and eat in any case! That man just oozes strawberries and chocolate!

I am ashamed that I haven’t written one word about the conference I was invited to. Shame on me! Please forgive me, I had problems with ‘blog weakness’! Queen Liz just remained in my memory. Every year Team Canada organizes a conference in cooperation with ASAE for what has become the premiere learning event for senior-level association executives. Montréal will host the 6th Invitational Forum in 2009. There were exceptional speakers but only one person stuck to my writer fingers: Donna Wilson. She is playing a key role in helping the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) define and develop its culture. I asked her a question: ‘Madame, in Europe people think very positively about Canada, but in the meantime there also exists a perception about Canada as being far away, cold and boring. How are you going to change this perception in 2010?’ Her answer was unexpected: ‘Canada is specialized in the cold and knows how to deal with it, also for its visitors. After 2010 no one will think that we are situated far away or that we are boring. We will show them an image of a country that sets an example for the world in the fields of quality of life, social responsibility, green management and sustainability.’ Now I am also convinced!
During the Forum I always saw two cheerful and smiling faces: Dan Melesurgo and Luc Charbonneau. The first one was ecstatic because he had achieved a successful forum in cooperation with ASAE as Executive Director Meeting, Convention & Incentive Travel Sales . The second one was so happy because he managed to bring in a big international congress: the 20th World Diabetes Congress in Montréal. And we as Headquarters Magazine are very proud of that too!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Looking for Congress Pearls

Last year after my visit to ADNEC in Abu Dhabi I wrote something bad about the European Convention Centres. I was specifically talking about the buildings and the architecture and not about management. The article said: About Palaces, bunkers and hangars. ‘If I look at what people generally build in Europe, I must say I start to blush. Most exhibition centres - and a lot of convention centres as well - in Europe and elsewhere look like bunkers, I feel.’ But oh lord, that didn’t go down well with some people. ‘What do you dare to write, Marcel?’
I know, there are a lot of exceptions but I have to repeat that in a few continents more attention is paid to the architecture of the buildings than in Europe. Or let me put it this way: countries that recognize the (big) value of a nice convention centre, also invest a lot of time in the shape and the content of it all. New convention centres have become market places of people’s minds instead of man-made goods. Real intellectual meeting spots, I call them. Or am I mistaken again in this matter?
The last example I’ve found could even be called an experimental building. Really unbelievable. In Ras al Khaimah plans are made for a dramatically iconic congress centre that could even have its place in space. The mixed-use project designed by Rem Koolhaas (OMA) features convention and exhibition facilities, hotels, offices, dwellings, shops and restaurants. The proposed form is dramatically iconic. An interior that takes the form of a sphere can be considered as a minimalist approach. The sphere as an exterior form however, is absolutely iconographic. No doubt about that. It already starts with the fact that OMA themselves named one of the images ‘Deathstar’, after the space city in the film series Star Wars.
I would recommend to read the next HeadQuarters Magazine that will be introduced in June during the annual AIPC congress in Singapore. In there, me and Rémi Dévé have done some investigative journalism for the first time in the meetings industry. You will find some juicy details on Convention Centre architecture, interior design, green management, services and catering. And this time, I hope you won’t be mad at me.