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Ulster firms cry foul at contest clique

A group of Northern Ireland’s heavyweight commercial practices has called on the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA) to scrap part of its competition design criteria as they believe a ‘select list’ is winning all the work.

The Northern Irish subsidiary of the RIBA advises clients to ask architects to prove their design ability through past award wins or published work.

But the pressure group – started by Hamiltons Architects and believed to include WDR & RT Taggart – is demanding the criteria be dropped, claiming it is creating a ‘class system’ .

Hamiltons Architects director, Seamus McCloskey, who has even become a member of the RSUA council to try and change the competition criteria, said: ‘The RSUA is getting into a position of advising [clients on] design criteria, and it means a very limited group is winning competitions and awards. It’s becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy – if you win a few awards you win competitions.’

Another source who refused to be named said ‘a considerable amount’ of Northern Ireland’s architects were ‘extremely perturbed’ by the situation.

He said: ‘If you are a qualified architect do you need to prove design ability? There is a class system emerging where some architects are seen as belonging to a higher class.

‘Is it fair that some practices who haven’t received awards are denied the opportunity of applying for awards or tenders? Is that not discriminatory?’

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