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Shortlist for RIBA West Belfast contest scrapped

Northern Ireland’s Department for Social Development (DSD) has abandoned a high-profile RIBA-run contest despite having already named a shortlist

Finalists in the competition for the £12 million expo centre on the site of the former Andersonstown police barracks in Belfast, will be forced to enter DSD’s new hunt for a design team.

The six shortlisted teams – which included Hawkins\Brown, Carmody Groarke and Grafton Architects – have not been paid their promised £6,000 honoraria, and several said they had not been told of the plans to re-tender.

The contest, which was to be judged by Daniel Libeskind, was postponed in May after Belfas-based Todd Architects made an official complaint about the shortlisting process and the way the sustainability credentials of the entrants were judged.

Speaking off the record, one finalist told the AJ: ‘The situation is frustrating. The honorarium is outstanding, and it’s important it is paid at this challenging time.’

Another shortlisted company said allowing ‘a minor admin issue’ to derail proceedings risked disadvantaging practices shortlisted the first time around.

Niels Torp of Niels Torp Architecture – which teamed up with local practice WDR & RT Taggart – said he was ‘a little surprised’, but would compete again for the job.

DSD confirmed it would relaunch the contest. A spokesperson said: ‘While this is a disappointing setback, we will continue to work towards our aim of delivering a building of real quality at this prominent site.’

The RIBA was unavailable for comment.

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