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Scale slip-up causes comp chaos

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A botched competition brief has led unsuspecting architects to design a bridge twice the size it should be and thrown yet another RIBA-organised contest into chaos.

The scale blunder on the site plan for Urban Splash's bridge competition in New Islington, Manchester (pictured), was only spotted by officials last Friday (2 February), giving potential entrants just days to amend their schemes before tomorrow's deadline (9 February).

Architects who had not clocked on to the 'scaling inaccuracies' have been left desperately trying to redraw their proposals for a new £450,000 footbridge straddling the Rochdale Canal next to Ancoats Urban Village.

The original site plan, issued when the competition was launched in mid-January (ajplus 16.01.07), was incorrectly labelled with the scale 1:250 at A1 size.

Some practices had relied on this information and traced the plan in good faith.

However, in an email sent to all the registered competitors late last week, it was admitted that there were errors on the plan and that the scale should have been 1:250 scale at A3.

The alteration effectively reduced the size of the plot by half, meaning some architects had come up with structures that were double the required length and width.

Staff at one of the luckier practices admitted the blunder could have made things 'very messy' if they had not noticed the error.

Yet Renato Benedetti, of veteran bridge designer McDowell & Benedetti, said the slip-up should have been obvious to anyone who really looked at the competition brief.

He said: 'Once you really concentrate on it, especially given the budget, you can probably work it out.'

The contest is one of three to be launched by Urban Splash for a site next to the Ancoats Urban Village and is expected to attract a wealth of attention from up-and-coming practices hoping to use the competition to get in with the groundbreaking developer.

According to the competition blurb, Urban Splash is hankering after 'a slick bridge' which looks just as good when it is built. The brief read: 'We want this bridge to be something special, but we also want you to show us something which will work.'

A shortlist will be announced on 19 February.

by Richard Waite

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