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Viñoly commits to Britain despite heavy Colchester criticism

Rafael Viñoly has said he remains committed to building in the UK despite his controversial 'golden banana' Colchester Arts Centre being branded 'a white elephant' by irate local residents.

The Uruguayan architect dismissed opposition to the scheme, triggered by an online debate organised by Colchester's Civic Society, as 'nothing unusual'.

He told the AJ: 'This is a project that challenges the basic typology of Colchester. I am becoming more accustomed to the process which is so unique in terms of approval.

'Vocal opposition is connected to some political agenda. It's just the sort of controversy that comes from this type of architecture, which is so visual.'

Work to build Firstsite:newsite - the official name for the arts centre - begins in the next few months and is scheduled for completion in October 2007.

It follows a decision by the Government Office for the East of England not to call in the radical yellow structure for a planning inquiry ( Viñoly clears final planning hurdle for 'golden banana').

Described by Viñoly himself as a floating croissant-shaped structure, the building is set to become a magnet for arts and culture in the region and will act as a catalyst for the £100 million regeneration of the St Botolph's quarter of Colchester.

The scheme has won the backing of Colchester City Council. However, locals have labelled the distinctive architecture everything from 'a disappointment' to 'essentially a box'.

by Clive Walker

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