Norman Foster has reportedly been removed from a $121million San Francisco project after a political row over the use of US stimulus package funds
Foster had been in line to carry out the high-profile refurbishment of 50 UN Plaza, a six-story, 32,000m² Beaux-Arts building in San Francisco. The selection of Foster had provoked controversy as the project had only been made possible by a multi-billion dollar federal stimulus fund intended to kick-start the American construction industry.
A spokesperson for the General Services Administration (GSA), which is overseeing the project, told The Architect’s Newspaper that that reports Foster was involved with the project were ‘outdated’ and that new and that new details would be announced soon. The GSA manages most federal buildings and was given $5.5 billion in the stimulus package to upgrade government office buildings, courthouses and ports.
Martin Bovill, vice president of development at Hornberger & Worstell, one of the locally-based firms passed over for the work last month, told the AN: ‘You’d think that it would make sense to keep the money here rather than send it overseas. It’s not like you’re in Timbuktu. You have very well-qualified firms in the city with experience in San Francisco historic preservation.’
Firms involved in the initial losing bids - SOM, Architectural Resources Group with HKS, and Hornberger & Worstell with William McDonough - have offices in San Francisco.
The initial outcry over a British firm winning the project contributed to the U-turn, according to the AN: ‘At this point, it’s hard not to imagine that political exigency gave the agency pause.’ Foster + Partners declined to comment.