TRAUMA FOR SCOTTISH CABE
Scotland's embryonic bid to create a version of the CABE design review process north of the border has already hit a series of problems that threatens to derail the entire project.
Both HOK International and Aberdeen City Council are fuming over the criticism of a scheme they proposed in the first-ever Architecture and Design Scotland (A&DS) design review meeting.
The proposals - for a £150 million masterplan in Aberdeen city centre called the Bon Accord Quarter - were slated by the review committee for being 'driven almost entirely be commercial and retail imperatives'. The plan was also accused of 'lacking any kind of architectural vision' (AJ Plus 13.06.05).
Phillip Wren, HOK's head of retail developments, is understood to have written to Sebastian Tombs, the new chief executive of A&DS, about the review session, questioning the fairness of the system and demanding that the protocol for meetings be changed.
The complaints he is understood to have cited in the letter include allegations that there were more than double the number of people present than had been advertised and that the time allowed for the presentation was considerably shorter than HOK had expected.
However, the biggest of HOK's concerns was that the minutes of the meeting were published online - even though the project had not yet gone to public consultation.
A&DS is believed to be worried that the Freedom of Information Act - which is being enforced more stringently in Scotland than in England - is likely to force the body to publish all the minutes of its design review meetings in future.
In England, CABE has long insisted that the success of design review is largely down to the fact that developers and architects feel comfortable bringing schemes to be reviewed at the pre-planning stage because the meetings are held behind closed doors.
If it is compulsory for all A&DS-reviewed schemes to be published, developers are likely to refuse to present them.
Sandy Beattie, a planning officer who attended the design review meeting with HOK, told the AJ that the event had been wholly unacceptable.
He said: 'HOK was advised to present the scheme one way and then it turned out A&DS wanted it a different way.
'The minutes were published without our consent, which is well within its rights, but we think it would have been very good to have allowed us to respond first.' Beattie added: 'The reviewers saw an early draft of the scheme, and to publicly criticise it was probably very counter-productive.' Tombs said the procedural problems were being looked into by A&DS. He also added that he would respond to Wren's letter by the end of this week.
He said: 'We are going to have take this problem to the Freedom of Information commissioner to see whether we have to publish the details of all our meetings. It will be interesting to see what he has to say.'
Netherlands-based landscape and urban design firm West 8 has won the competition for central London's highly contentious Jubilee Gardens site on the South Bank. The firm saw off the three other shortlisted practices in the international competition: Gross Max, Thomas Heatherwick and EDAW. West 8's designs were based primarily on the concept of an undulating green park, which, through landscaping, will have a series of hills and 'look-outs' for views up and down the Thames.
The practice has also developed concepts for lighting at night, which, it claims, will create 'a spectacular display that will animate the park'.