Norman Foster has walked away from possibly the highest-profile architectural commission in Britain today.
The international star has pulled out of his involvement in the design work on the UK’s new Supreme Court.
Foster and Partners had been working as a consultant on the project - to radically rework the Grade II*-listed Middlesex Guildhall (above) on Parliament Square, central London - with lead architect Feilden and Mawson.
But Foster ceased contributing to the design work at Stage D of the project. The AJ understands that he was offered more work up to and beyond Stage E, but instead decided to turn his back on the Design and Build scheme.
A source at the Department of Constitutional Affairs (DCA), the scheme’s client, said: ‘We offered Norman Foster more work and we wanted him to stay on in an advisory capacity, but he decided against it.’
The full reasons for the departure remain unclear, although one insider on the project said Foster had realised that ‘it wasn’t going to be a Norman Foster building’.
And another long-term observer suggested that too many design decisions ‘had not gone [Foster’s] way’.
If the £32 million project does go ahead, it will see a radical conversion of Middlesex Guildhall’s interiors. This will include new offices, a new legal library, the restoration of two light wells and the adoption of existing courtrooms.
It is understood that the changes to the historic fabric have been subject to much debate with English Heritage.
Foster’s departure will come as a severe embarrassment to the newly-formed DCA, which revealed the design team to much fanfare last year.
Speaking in May, when the proposals were submitted for planning, the Lord Chancellor, Charlie Falconer, spoke passionately about the challenges met by Foster and Feilden and Mawson: ‘The location and setting of the UK Supreme Court should be a reection of its importance and its place at the apex of the justice system and the heart of the constitution, ’ he said.
‘The proposed design offers an exciting opportunity to reinvigorate a historic London building, ’ he added. ‘We plan to deliver a world-class court building.’