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While I wish Sheppard Robson the best of luck with the BBC Broadcasting House project ( ajplus 04.11.05), I can't help but feel that this project is already a lost cause for those who were hoping that it would produce some great architecture.

What chance is there of the promised 'highly complex, detailed design features and integration of cutting-edge technology' actually materialising, given the problems that have hindered the project so far? Judging by the experience MacCormac has had, design seems to be at the very bottom of the agenda for the BBC. This was only reinforced by the letter from John Smith, the BBC's chief operating officer (AJ 03.11.05).

Smith made no mention of the MacCormac issue, and instead, rather bizarrely, highlighted budget and schedule problems on the scheme, a move that can hardly have reassured anyone.

For not only does the BBC not do design, it appears it can't even run a project to budget, with Smith happy to admit that Broadcasting House had already cost £20 million more than its estimate, while 'reassuring' readers that the scheme had not doubled in cost (a somewhat baffling statement, seeing as I don't remember anyone ever claiming that it had). I can only repeat that I hope Sheppard Robson can salvage something of merit from this project - and that this fiasco will make the BBC realise that architecture shouldn't necessarily begin and end on the balance sheet, although that would certainly be a start.

Graham Chase, Manchester

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