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Shell Centre architects to retender

Shell Centre developer Braeburn Estates has retendered the design team on the high-profile South Bank scheme ‘to get a competitive price’

 The developer of London’s iconic Shell Centre has retendered its entire design team. The move casts into doubt the detailed design roles of five high-profile architects working on the scheme.

Squire and Partners, KPF, Patel Taylor, GRID and Stirling Prize-winner Stanton Williams have been pitted against executive architects in a bid to achieve ‘competitive’ prices for working drawings.

The decision comes less than a month after plans were submitted for the 2.15 hectare London riverside plot, featuring landmark towers with 790 apartments alongside 48,300m2 of office space together with new public spaces and shops.

Braeburn Estates, the joint venture developer comprising Qatari Diar with Canary Wharf Group, retendered all disciplines apart from Squire and Partners’ masterplanning role. The appointments were initially only up to planning stage and negotiations are expected to conclude by the end of the month.

Architects must tender for both design architecture and working drawings contracts. Incumbent teams must compete against a shortlist of ‘selected architects’ to guarantee taking their individual buildings through working drawings. 

Braeburn Estates said: ‘We appointed people up to planning because we didn’t know the scheme we would ultimately arrive at in terms of what we would be submitting for planning and getting consent for.’

Asked whether the current architects’ performance was to blame, he said: ‘We are delighted with all of our architects. They are doing incredibly well. We are retendering to get a competitive price of work for the next stage.’

Paul Monaghan of AHMM criticised the general approach, claiming the decision to swap ‘trophy architects’ for cheaper alternatives was ‘becoming more and more common’ and should be blocked where possible.

‘When you use good architects their hallmarks are in the detailed design they do,’ he said. Monaghan suggested up to 50 per cent of a practice’s expected workload could be lost if a project went to an executive architect for bargain-hunting reasons. ‘It’s really frustrating and something planning authorities should be doing something about,’ he said, blaming the problem on an increase in practices providing ‘cheaper detailing’.

But a source close to the project said: ‘They have been reasonable on fees to date and I would be really surprised if they took the cheap route.’

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