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Ball faces loss of practice following Eden dismissal

The architectural career of Jonathan Ball, who is suing the Eden Project botanical centre in Cornwall for £5.5 million over infringement of his intellectual property rights, is under extreme threat, he admitted this week.

Financial risks which Ball took in co-founding the Eden Project mean that his relationship with his Bude-based practice is now in doubt.

'My architectural future and that of my practice of 27 years' standing have been imperilled as a direct consequence of the Eden matter, ' Ball said.

Ball is understood to have invested considerable time and money during the four-year development of the Eden Project and these factors may now jeopardise his immediate future as the principal of the Jonathan Ball Partnership. Staff numbers at his practice have fallen from 11 to three as a direct result of his involvement in the Eden Project, he said.

Ball issued the writ last November in which he claims Eden co-founder Tim Smit agreed to run the project on a 50/50 basis. But in November last year he was sacked as a director of the £80 million Lottery-funded project and is now demanding compensation and proceeds from the use of the name, the Eden Project. In particular, Ball, a former candidate for the RIBA presidency, claims he was pivotal in appointing the design team of Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners and Anthony Hunt Associates to the project.

'I want to get on with my life and get the proper recognition for my role in one of the best pieces of millennial architecture, ' he said.

The case will be heard at the High Court on 9 April and could prove an embarrassment to the government if the judge calls for Eden Project Limited to make a major payout.

After the public relations nightmare of the Millennium Dome, the government has been keen to cast the Eden Project as a Lottery success story and has so far refused to make public a 1999 report into the project by consultant KPMG, despite calls from Ball and his local MP, Liberal Democrat Paul Ty l e r.

The Eden Project has been overwhelmingly popular with visitors, even before the work on the main greenhouses was complete, and in the seven months that the visitor centre has been open it has attracted almost half a million visitors. Its target for annual visitor numbers after the whole centre opens on 17 March is just 750,000. The visitor centre is currently closed for alterations to the ticketing office to take account of the huge numbers of expected visitors.

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