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Ian Ritchie has been sidelined from the vast majority of the White City shopping centre development amid widespread concerns over the quality of the scheme's design, the AJ can exclusively reveal.

The architect - shortlisted for last year's Stirling Prize - is no longer working on the all-important retail and leisure elements of the project, it has emerged.

The decision to sideline Ritchie, which was taken in July 2005, came after developer We s tfi eld took financial control of the project from the financially-troubled Multiplex earlier this year.

This move was followed last month by the erection of two different demonstration facades on site. It is understood that the first was worked up from Ritchie's proposals, while the second is the result of designs produced after a signifi cant value-engineering exercise by the developer.

The two examples show wildly different design approaches. Ritchie's, which won the existing planning permission, has unusual copper panelling, a strong horizontal language and riveting to give the scheme 'a feeling of human involvement'.

This facade has been completely transformed in the second example, which is more conventional. The copper panels have disappered, as has much of the horizontal language. The riveting has also been removed.

Most noticeably, the new scheme fails to include the two most prominent horizontal elements: the ribbon of lights and the mesh ventilation.

A source told the AJ that Ritchie, who is now only working on the project's 'transport elements', was 'very, very disappointed' by both being sidelined and by the significant changes that have been made to his designs.

But a spokesman for We s tfi eld insisted that Ritchie remained central to the project.

'Ian Ritchie still has a role to play on the White City scheme, ' he said. 'Our position is that Ritchie is still working for us on the project.' And in a statement, the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham also claimed that its position remained unchanged, despite alterations to the design team.

'The general design principle of the White City shopping and leisure centre has not changed, ' it said.

'The council is determined to maintain the design excellence of the White City proposals and is committed to a high-quality outcome, particularly on a flagship scheme like this.' But, in a thinly disguised warning, the statement added:

'We would not tolerate any 'dumbing down' of design standards.'

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