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Ferguson blasts CABE over Viñoly tower backing

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Former RIBA president George Ferguson has launched an astonishing attack on CABE's design-review process - and in particular its decision to back Rafael Viñoly's controversial 'Walkie-Talkie' tower in the City of London.

Speaking to the AJ at MIPIM, Ferguson said the commission had 'made a big mistake' in supporting Viñoly's Fenchurch Street project near the Tower of London, claiming CABE had been 'seduced' by the name of the architect rather than looking at the 'beauty' of the scheme.

In the surprise outburst Ferguson also said the 36-storey tower for Land Securities was in danger of becoming 'one of the ugliest buildings in London' and should be X-listed for demolition even before it was built.

Despite winning CABE's support - and planning approval - Viñoly's scheme has come in for heavy criticism from some quarters, including English Heritage, and was scrutinised at a public inquiry last week.

Ferguson, who claims he is not alone in his views, is now calling for CABE to retract its backing. He said: 'I'm disappointed that such a highly regarded set of people could come to such a wrong decision.

'I am one of CABE's strongest supporters, but I think the decision damages the quango a bit and also damages the prospects of London becoming a future European City of the Year.'

He added: 'Viñoly's scheme defies normal aesthetics and CABE must not fall into the trap of supporting a scheme just because it is by a trendy architect.'

Responding to the outburst, CABE design-review chairman Paul Finch said Ferguson had no evidence to back up his claims about the alleged 'starchitect' factor and was wrong to criticise CABE simply because he did not like the scheme.

He said: '[Ferguson] said CABE does not know what it is talking about simply because [he] does not like the scheme.

'If [he] thinks CABE is about imposing aesthetic opinion then [he] has misunderstood CABE's role.

'He has absolutely no evidence or examples to back up his claims that we have supported a scheme just because it was by a star name.'

by Richard Waite

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