Essential listening: how to build a super tower

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Has anyone else been listening to this drama series on Radio 4 this week – ‘How to Build a Supertower’?

Admittedly a day of travelling yesterday has helped me find time – it’s much easier to go through airport security lines and off into Europe with a good story on the headphones – and it was so good it deserves a wider audience.

I’ve lost count of the number of industry dinners I’ve been to where the after-dinner speaker doesn’t really understand commercial property – or pointedly makes the joke that they know we’re not estate agents and swiftly moves on. Plenty of other people have the same view as well.

Here, though, the dramatist knows their stuff. Robert Glenister stars as Max Silver, a property developer on the up who finds himself bringing forward the London Hourglass, a brand new 100ft tower in the City of London. Working with an international architect to allow the site to move forward, local consultation, planning inquiry, funding and construction, even MIPIM – all are extremely well-observed and well-written, and the piece moves forward at pace.

Overlaying these set pieces is a shadier and more interesting edge that may be further from real life: family drama, the rise and fall of fortunes and the effect of outside events – from Mayoral elections to the Albanian mafia – on the project’s progress.

It’s all hugely engaging and with just the final episode still to go it will be very interesting to see how the ending plays out.

But before you rush off to BBC iPlayer, I’ll leave you with one final detail that not all Radio 4 listeners will pick up on, but those in the industry might well appreciate: the playwright is Paul Sellar.