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Grimshaw millennium project goes design and build . . .

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A 'landmark' lottery project granted£50 million by the Millennium Commission is to be completed under a design- and-build contract, even though Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners won a competitive interview to design it over two years ago.

The £112 million Millennium Point is the West Midlands' flagship millennium project, intended to revitalise the Digbeth area of Birmingham by celebrating the technological achievements of local people in the Industrial Revolution. The 40,000m2 complex will include a discovery centre exploring science and technology, a technology innovation centre, the 'University of the First Age' and the Hub - a series of linked concourses.

Even though the project backers promised 'a landmark building, renowned nationally and worldwide, reflecting the Millennium Commission's objectives and investment' and 'a beacon for the new millennium', Grimshaw will be sidelined.

Jim Beeston, chief executive of charitable trust Millennium Point, said that Grimshaw's will take 'something of a back seat' when a contractor takes over. 'As a trust we debated all this - we've got to manage a budget with no cost over-runs; we have to hit targets for the Millennium Commission on time and we have to have the quality to achieve a landmark building.' Beeston added that the Millennium Commission - which mentioned Hungerford Bridge in discussions about going d&b - was satisfied by the level of detail in documentation for the contractor. A design for the project is to be unveiled in early September at two launches - one in Birmingham and the other in London - and the site is being cleared, which includes the demolition of one council-owned building.

Millennium Point is one of only three projects supported by the Millennium Commission's largest award of £50 million, along with the Bankside Tate in London and the Earth Centre in Doncaster. The project has £23.6 million of European Union money, and around £6.7 million from English Partnerships - which has a policy of promoting good architecture enshrined in the good- practice document, 'Time for Design 2'.

The Birmingham office of Percy Thomas Partnership, among others, has applied to become the scheme's executive architect along with Ove Arup. A contractor will be appointed in April 1999 and the project is due for completion by the end of 2001.

A spokesperson for Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners said it was a 'delicate and sensitive time'. 'We are working with the client looking at various means of procurement,' she said.

. . . as Norfolk locals vote for vernacular village hall

An architectural row has been stirred up in the quiet Norfolk village of Burnham Market by the Observer newspaper. 'Down here in nice Burnham Market, we don't care for world-class hi-tech design. Even if it's free,' last Sunday's headline read. The story detailed how the villagers had rejected an offer by weekend resident Nicholas Grimshaw to design them a new village hall to replace the current scruffy one, even though his design would come free. But further on the story explains that villagers believe there is no point in a classy village hall to provide facilities for young people, as all they want to do is drink.

'Nick's very amused by the story,' said a spokeswoman for the practice. 'All he did was a sketch on the back of an envelope about a year ago.' Copies of the envelope are not available.

Student John Burke, who has just completed his diploma at Edinburgh, has won the Velux/aj Lifetime Housing Design competition. He was presented with the first prize of £6000 by riba president David Rock at an award ceremony at the institute this week. His proposal, for a site in Letchworth Garden City, was praised for its proposition on the adaptability of individual dwellings, and the relationship of a series of similar forms in the same area. Second prize of £4000 went to Dublin practitioner Kevin Dodd, and third prize of £3000 to John Smart, an architect with Whitby Bird. A full report on the competition will appear in aj 30.7.98.

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