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'U2 Tower' designs to be binned

The winning designs in one of the most hotly contested competitions in recent years are under threat of being dropped.

Craig Henry Architects and Burdon Dunne Architects were chosen in 2003 for the 'U2 Tower' in Dublin, of which the top two storeys are intended to house a recording studio for Irish rock band U2.

But the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) has now asked four different developers - with new architects - to come up with fresh designs for the scheme or to find ways of reworking the winning designs.

It is widely rumoured that Foster and Partners is one of two UK-based practices in the running for the reopened scheme.

The involvement of the hugely famous U2 has formed a significant part of the branding and marketing of the project, and the competition-winning designs have played a major role in the marketing of regeneration in the neglected Docklands area of Dublin.

However, observers now fully expect these designs to be dropped. A source close to one of the offices lining up to develop the site said: 'There's no way [the offices] expect to have to work on the original design - if they did they wouldn't enter.'

The original competition for the tower was one of the worst organised in recent memory. Famously, organiser the DDDA emailed all those who had expressed an interest in entering the contest but failed to disguise the addresses, thus revealing the identity of all the contestants.

The competition was also plagued by widespread rumours that a different scheme was originally picked as the winner, but those designs were subsequently misplaced.

After the eventual winner was picked, news of the project was unforthcoming until the middle of last year, when the DDDA launched a search for a development partner. The quango also revealed at the time that the tower would be over 100m tall, rather than the originally planned 80m. This fuelled speculation that commercial calculations were failing to add up.

A spokesman for the DDDA refused to confirm that the successful development partner would be allowed to either rework or replace the original competition-winning proposals.

Speaking last year, DDDA chief executive Paul Maloney said: 'The U2 Tower will provide a unique and remarkable architectural icon for Docklands and the city of Dublin.

'This project presents an exciting development opportunity to deliver a key landmark project in Docklands, which is at the forefront of local, national and international design innovation and will create an enduring landmark in the capital,' he added.

It is expected that the development team for the project will be selected in the next two months. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2008.

by Ed Dorrell

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