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Leicester eclipses rivals with Viñoly and Alsop projects

Rafael Viñoly Architects has won a competition to build its first building in the UK, a £26 million theatre and performing arts venue in Leicester. And in another boost for the city, intended to push it ahead of its Midlands rivals, Alsop Architects has unveiled a strategic framework for 400ha development to include offices, housing and a science and technology campus. It also includes proposals to reunite the city core with its waterfront.

The Viñoly scheme will form the heart of the city's new cultural quarter in the St George's area and will feature two theatres, along with rehearsal, production and training areas. Building work on the new Haymarket Theatre will start in 2004 with several sites being considered. Rafael Viñoly said: 'This is a unique opportunity to reaffirm the role of art as a force for creating civic pride.'

Leicester City Council, Leicester Theatre Trust and Leicester Arts Centre Trust ran the competition for the project, described by the Arts Council of England as 'one of the most significant theatre developments in Britain'. Viñoly's presentation had 'flair and imagination', said the council, which chose him from a shortlist of five that also comprised Bain + Bevington Architects, Levitt Bernstein, RHWL and Michael Wilford with Numa. Foster and Partners entered the competition but dropped out before the final selection.

Council leader Ross Willmott said: 'This milestone will put us on the map for urban design and a vision for theatre in the third millennium.'

One of the competition judges, former Arts Council architecture chief Rory Coonan, said Leicester's initiative was in stark contrast to Stratford's saga over the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre village - although new RSC boss Michael Boyd is to press ahead with the £100 million redevelopment of the Grade II*-listed theatre by BDP and Erick van Egeraat. 'It is the best news for Leicester since its engineering building, ' Coonan said.

The Arts Council has set aside £10 million for the development of the cultural quarter, which will cost £58 million and include a film and media centre, contemporary visual arts block and music venue, plus creative production and enterprise facilities.

East Midlands Arts executive director Laura Dyer said Viñoly was a tremendous coup, and the building would be good for the country as well as the East Midlands.

Alsop's vision for Leicester, meanwhile, was unveiled during a three-day public exhibition.

Alsop Architects is part of a consortium led by Roger Tym & Partners, working to a brief from the Leicester Regeneration Company to develop a regeneration masterplan for the city. The final masterplan will be launched on 8 November.

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