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SUPERSTARS BAIL OUT WHITE CITY

NEWS

Richard MacCormac has been parachuted in to fill the vacuum created by Ian Ritchie's shock exit from the hugely troubled £1.5 billion White City shopping centre project in west London, the AJ can reveal.

MacCormac has been working alongside Richard Rogers and Ricky Burdett in a bid to rescue developer Westfield's vast plans for one of Europe's biggest shopping centres after Ritchie left the scheme last year.

A final planning application for the enormous retail scheme, a picture of which is published here for the first time, was submitted to Hammersmith and Fulham planners just before Christmas.

The designs show the full extent of changes to the vast project. Alterations include changes to the building's central courtyard space, and entrances to the north and south-east.

Westfield's head of design David Leonard approached Rogers and Burdett, both advisers to the London mayor, last June over the content of the scheme.

'Richard [Rogers] was most interested in permeability and the hours of usage, ' said Leonard, describing the outcome of his strategic review with the architect.

Rogers advised Leonard to appoint a design 'mentor', and MacCormac was subsequently brought on-board.

Speaking exclusively to the AJ, Rogers revealed he was instrumental in recommending Ritchie for the original project.

'I thought there were some exciting things about his designs, although it was constrained, ' he said.

'When [Westfield] came in, there seemed to be a blockage, which I tried to resolve, and then they brought in Richard [MacCormac] before showing me the scheme as promised, ' he continued.

Rogers' infl uence on connectivity can be seen in the south-east corner of the scheme, where a new ramp will extend up to the shopping centre, which will be suspended 6.5m above a car park.

Changes to this entrance - next to a new 'shopping street' - were part of the reason CABE expressed its concerns over what it termed the 'dumbing down' of the design last autumn (AJ 01.09.05). It is understood that the design watchdog will now leave the scheme 'largely unopposed'.

Leonard said MacCormac, whose high-profi le departure from the BBC's Broadcasting House recently grabbed headlines, 'articulated the form of the building's external envelope', which stretches for over 1km in length.

This has resulted in a wavy roof that now breaks the building's facade - an 'outer skin' that still bears Ritchie's hallmark in a number of places.

Burdett is now chairing talks between Westfield, MacCormac and Rem Koolhaas' OMA - which is working on a masterplan to the north of the centre - and US landscape architect Martha Schwartz, who is collaborating with Westfield on landscape work around the complex.

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