Not many people can truly be described as legends. Irvine Sellar can. That is why so many property big hitters - past and present - have paid tribute to him this week following his shock death on Sunday.
It is also why Property Week inducted him into our Hall of Fame at last year’s Property Awards - alongside Sir Stuart Lipton and Tony Pidgley.
I am so glad we did. At the awards dinner, he was clearly as thrilled with the accolade as he was disappointed the year before that The Shard did not pick up the award for the most innovative development of the previous 20 years.
He lost out on that one to King’s Cross, possibly because at that stage there were still some doubters out there.
There are few doubters now. No one else saw such potential in that part of London for a vertical city or town as it is now referred to.
That he persisted when all around him thought the project was destined for failure - and in one of the toughest periods ever for the UK property market - is testament to what an ‘unreasonable man’ can achieve.
When I first saw him described thus, I thought it was a typo. I was not familiar with the George Bernard Shaw quote that Sellar had above his desk proclaiming that all progress depends on the unreasonable man. Now I cannot think of a more apt description.
Joie de vivre
What I also recall from my meetings with him was his irreverence, cheeky persona and sheer joie de vivre. At our last meeting, over lunch at The Shard, he broke off for a quick chat with his good friend Gerald (as in Ronson). Then he was back animatedly discussing politics - while railing against political correctness.
It was a long time since Sellar had been a man of the people, but he never lost his empathy with the people, something that came out in his views on Brexit ahead of the EU referendum.
“I’m on the border, hovering towards stay, but it wouldn’t take a lot to push me towards out,” he confided. “I think we would survive and probably do very well as an independent country. I can see a lot of very persuasive reasons for not being in.”
He was in a distinct minority at the time but had picked up on the zeitgeist. He was also one of the few who thought Donald Trump would be elected US president.
“Why is Trump doing so well? Because he says: ‘Forget all this political correctness. I will build the wall.’”
It was a similar determination, bloody mindedness and self-belief that drove Sellar to develop The Shard. Our meetings were supposed to be preparatory work for a big interview. But each time I tried to push the button on it, I was politely rebuffed. He wanted to have something new and big to talk about. That was the Paddington Cube.
Sadly, I will never write that interview and Sellar will never see the Cube come to fruition. But his legacy is already writ large on the London skyline and what a legacy it is.
He will be missed.