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Architecture Week launch 'sidelined' by GLA developer

Developer CIT has agreed to let the Arts Council kick off its celebrations for this year's Architecture Week at its Foster and Partners-designed Greater London Authority headquarters - but has refused to let anyone into the main structure itself because it will not be 'sufficiently advanced'.

The Arts Council wanted to launch its weeklong celebration of architecture in this country with a bang by holding an opening ceremony with invited VIPs such as culture secretary Chris Smith - or his replacement - on June 18 inside the halffinished £45 million building at More London Bridge, on the south bank of the River Thames.

But as the AJ went to press, CIT finally consented to allow the event to take place at an adjacent pavilion rather than inside the £45 million building, which it said was not far enough down the line. CIT insisted the high-profile new home for the mayor was on track and to budget, with the start of glass installation taking place this week.

But it was also keen to avoid taking the gloss off a topping-out ceremony it plans for July, shortly after the proposed Architecture Week event.

After hearing they would not get access, Arts Council staff began seeking other venues for the launch in the London area and considered holding the event at the Greenwich Millennium Village site, where buildings such as Edward Cullinan and Partners' school have been completed.

The Arts Council's director of visual arts Marjorie Allthorpe-Guyton said that other schemes with 'site significance' had also been in hand - another option was Daniel Libeskind's structure proposed for the Serpentine Gallery.

Fosters' complex building - in the shape of a glass globe - will feature a purpose-built assembly chamber and offices for 400 staff to support mayor Ken Livingstone. The GLA says that work is expected to be completed next spring.

But the building has long been controversial, attracting early criticism from Livingstone and others who attacked its small size and the way that central government would only underwrite £12.8 million of extra costs if the GLA moved there rather than to other proposed sites. GLA conservative group leader Robert Neill warned in March that the building could be 'the next Dome scenario'.

This year's Arts Council's Architecture Week runs from 22 June to 1 July. Further details on the week's events are on the website at www.architectureweek.org.uk or in a free copy of the event guide, available by calling the hotline number 0906 292 2300 (25p per minute).

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