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RIBA contest on hold after Belfast practice sues

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An international competition to create an expo centre in west Belfast has been suspended following a legal challenge by a practice which failed to make the shortlist

Teams shortlisted for the £12 million project to transform an iconic site of Northern Irelands ‘Troubles’ – the Andersontown police ‘fortress’ – were notified the contest was postponed without any explanation.

It is understood the unnamed Belfast-based studio issued legal proceedings against project-backer Northern Ireland’s Department for Social Development, shortly after the five-strong shortlist was announced.

The contest was scheduled to reach its submission of concepts stage this month. It is unclear whether design teams - including Carmody Groarke, Hawkins\Brown and Grafton - have received their promised £6,000 (excluding VAT) honorarium.

Daniel Libeskind, who was chairing the assessment panel, has also cancelled plans to visit Belfast in August to judge the entries.

The expo centre was pitched as a place to showcase the district’s regeneration, setting a ‘new standard’ in terms of innovation and design.

It will be built on a triangle-shaped site at the junction of Falls Road and Glen Road overlooking a cemetery. The Andersontown police barracks previously occupied the land but was demolished in 2005.

The fortress featured a watchtower and barbed wire fences. An IRA car bomb exploded in May 1983 at the station.

The project was backed by the Northern Ireland Department for Social Development’s Belfast Regeneration Office, West Belfast Partnership Board (WBPB) and PLACE the Architecture & Built Environment Centre.

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Department for Social Development said: ‘We can confirm that the design competition for the regeneration of the former site of the Andersonstown Police Station is currently on hold and all applicants have been advised accordingly.  We are not in a position to comment any further at this stage.’

The West Belfast Partnership Board declined to comment.

Shortlist in full:

  • Grafton Architects and BDSP Partnership with Adams Kara Taylor
  • Hawkins\Brown with North Seven
  • Kennedy FitzGerald & Associates with Carmody Groarke
  • Niels Torp with WDR & RT Taggart
  • URS Scott Wilson with Hackett Hall McKnight.
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