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Coup at mega-mosque as Allies and Morrison pushes Mangera Yvars aside

Allies and Morrison Architects has usurped Mangera Yvars Architects on the £300 million Abbey Mills 'mega-mosque' project in east London.

The 12th-largest practice in the UK, Allies and Morrison confirmed it was working on the project, but declined to comment further. The move pushes out the smaller Anglo-Spanish firm, which has been on the scheme since it won the competition in 2005.

Zaha Hadid, who turned down an opportunity to take on the project, backed her former employee, practice partner Ali Mangera.

She said: 'I felt it inappropriate to say 'yes' to a project if there was already an architect on board.

It is understood that Allies and Morrison was appointed after a design competition

was held in December, despite Mangera Yvars still being under contract to work on the scheme. It is now thought that the AJ/Corus 40 Under 40 firm is seeking legal advice.

The original scheme (below) - located in West Ham, a stone's throw from the Olympic Park

- attracted a mountain of negative press coverage.

Dubbed the 'mega-mosque' by the London Evening Standard, the Abbey Mills Islamic Centre

was said to have a capacity of 70,000, making it nearly 20 times larger than Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral.

The trust then radically reduced the size of the mosque, claiming it would provide worship space for no more than 12,000, and even then would rarely host more than half that number at any given time.

Mangera Yvars continued to be involved with the design process until, despite claims that it had stuck to the brief, the young practice was dropped in favour of Allies and Morrison. It now seems likely that the firm has been used as a scapegoat with the trust distancing itself from the bad press.

Allies and Morrison, which has a good track record of using smaller practices, is likely to start the design process from scratch, as a new planning application will have to be put forward.

The local authority, Newham Borough Council, said the site is occupied by a 'makeshift mosque', which is still using temporary planning permission that has now expired.

A spokesman from the council said it was not expecting a new planning application for a permanent mosque until early next year.

by Richard Vaughan

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