Ian Ritchie Architects has been replaced by RHWL on the troubled £60 million Crystal Palace Park leisure scheme.
Developer London and Regional Properties has appointed RHWL 'delivery architect' in an attempt to speed through final designs and start work on site early next year. The scheme, which will include a multiplex with up to 20 screens alongside other leisure uses, has so far been delayed by legal challenges and widespread local opposition.
The developer has sworn Ian Ritchie to silence about why he was replaced, but planners believe that his practice did not have enough staff to complete the detailing of the scheme in time. The practice, which employs about 25 architects, is also designing a £600 million shopping centre with Benoy at White City in west London.
'Ritchie is a very good architect on the design but he didn't have the resources to get the details done, ' said London Borough of Bromley chief planner Stuart Macmillan.
'I didn't get the impression that he wanted to do the details.
He was concerned, though, that his scheme might be changed.'
This looks likely to happen on the level of detailing and RHWL has already submitted drawings to planners which do not tally with Ritchie's original design. In one instance a metalwork detail around the rooftop car park has been switched from mesh to sheeting, according to planners.
However, the client insisted that major changes would not occur. 'The delivery architect is now RHWL using the Ritchie plans, ' said L&R managing director Geoff Springer. He refused to comment on why Ian Ritchie Architects is not completing the job, which it won in 1996. The scheme was awarded planning permission in 1998 although a number of details were left outstanding.