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Heat is on over searchfor London headquarters


With the search for a new home for the Greater London Authority now well and truly on, attention is being focused on the process by which it is happening. Thus far, as reported last week, a group of sites/buildings have been visited by London minister Nick Raynsford, civil servants and a small advisory group. Since then, the ibm building has been withdrawn from the fray, and the minister opened an exhibition of proposals so far, taking place in the Oxo Tower Gallery on London's South Bank. In addition to the proposals for the 'real' sites, there are a group of ideas for a site next to the Oxo Tower, drawn up last Saturday (under the watchful eye of Architecture Today) by Ted Cullinan, Piers Gough, Eva Jiricna, Jeremy Dixon, Will Alsop and Tony Fretton.

The exhibition has raised the obvious question as to why there is not going to be a design competition to achieve the new gla headquarters, once the site has been chosen. The government feels that a competition process as envisaged in Scotland and Wales would take too long to deliver a building required for completion by autumn 2000.

The truth is that a final decision on the process of procuring the building is not cast in stone, since it is only the process of site examination which has prompted questions over the design mechanism. The government wants a developer to be involved because it intends leasing the resulting building for 15 years, rather than become a site purchaser and developer on its own account. However, it is not inconceivable that some form of design competition could be introduced at a later stage in the competition, once the sites/buildings have been shortlisted. It is rumoured that at least one developer has already switched architects (and it is also rumoured that the Millbank Tower might come into play as a potential site). The fun is just starting.

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