A major blunder by the organiser of one of the most popular competitions in recent years is threatening to turn the contest into a farce.
More than 480 architects from around the world have been tempted to have a go at designing a new visitor centre at the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. However, the anonymous contest - run along International Union of Architects (UIA) guidelines - has descended into chaos following the inadvertent disclosure of the identities of all the competition hopefuls.
They include some of architecture's biggest names, such as Zaha Hadid, Marks Barfield, and RIBA president George Ferguson's practice, Acanthus Ferguson Mann.
The finger of blame is being pointed at an employee of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) - the organisation sponsoring the competition. It is
understood the hapless official unintentionally 'copied in' all the contestants into an email, allowing the entrants to see who they will be up against.
Reaction to the blunder has ranged from mild amusement to outright anger. The AJ has learned that a number of architects have now decided not to submit their schemes, either because they are worried about other competitors or because they have concerns over the integrity of the contest.
Ben Addy, of Moxon Architects, said: 'Because it
is a competition run on UIA guidelines, clearly this [breach of confidentiality] has implications. The disclosure doesn't bother me in itself. What bothers me is whether the competition will remain valid. There needs to be confirmation that the competition is still going ahead. I'm not doing anything until they get back to us.'
The clanger has done nothing to ease Addy's worries about the competition organiser either. He said: 'I have been really impressed with all the stuff the the DETI has been sending out. However, I'm not sure how experienced they are at running the competition - in a way they have gone overboard with the information.'
Terry Pawson, another contestant, is also concerned about the howler but he believes the email error will soon be forgotten. He said: 'The inadvertent publication
of the list of architects is an unfortunate lapse in protocol that does not help the general credibility of the
design competition process, nor specifically the reputation
of the organisers of this competition. But will the published list of architects who have registered for the competition really affect anyone's submission?'
Despite the mix-up, a spokesman for the DETI confirmed that the competition would be going ahead and said: 'This was an honest mistake by one of our officials. It is nothing more than an unfortunate error and we apologise to anyone for any embarrassment caused.'
But the final word must go to John Harrigan of Keppie Design, who is still intending to enter his designs. He said: 'I hope the poor guy [who sent the email] doesn't get his arse kicked too hard.'by Richard Waite