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Zaha's Architecture Foundation HQ plans axed

The Architecture Foundation’s (AF’s) proposed HQ scheme – which would have been Zaha Hadid’s first permanent building in England – has been axed.

Rowan Moore, director of the Architecture Foundation, blamed the shock decision to scrap the £5 million Southwark scheme, on the eastern edge of Land Securities' Bankside 123 development, on the UK’s ‘dramatically changed economic and fundraising climate’.

Moore said: ‘The design had been developed to a high level of detail. However, fit-out and future running costs combined with the changed fundraising climate meant the board of the AF felt that it was not the right time to go ahead with this.

‘We felt it would be responsible to focus resources on our future programme and not proceed with the new building.’

The decision to pull the project – described by Moore as ‘a wonderful instrument for communicating architecture to the public, as well as a beautiful and unforgettable structure’ – was made at an AF board meeting last week.

It brings to an end a four-year saga that has been dogged by problems since Hadid beat, among others, Foreign Office Architects and Caruso St John to win the competition in 2004.

In January 2006, Allies and Morrison – the architect behind Bankside 123 – was appointed to ‘oversee’ Hadid’s design, and in recent months Land Securities development director, Mike Hussey, has warned that the developer would walk away if costs were not viable after its preferred contractor Bovis pulled out of bidding for the scheme.

Speaking to the AJ on Tuesday (12 February) Hussey said: ‘The AF is saying that this is too big an investment for its business. I am disappointed – it would have been nice to do it, but I get where they are coming from.’

He added: ‘There is no chance we will build the Zaha building; it wouldn’t work as a retail or leisure building, which is where it may end up.'

The site will be landscaped while Land Securities considers its options.

Read reaction from Rowan Moore, Will Alsop and Ricky Burdett here, and Rowan Moore’s comment piece here.

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