Project leaders at the South Bank have refused to confirm that a design by Allies and Morrison will replace the 'glass wave' by Lord Rogers for its centre. Chairman-elect Elliott Bernerd told the aj: 'It would be rash of me to say, 'let's appoint Norman Foster or reappoint Rogers or go for Allies and Morrison'. That will get us into terrible trouble.'
Bernerd was responding to rumours that Allies and Morrison, which came second to Rogers in a competition in 1994, was back in the running. 'It would be completely irresponsible for me to say we are dumping the Richard Rogers' scheme,' he said. 'Nothing is dead; we are taking very careful counsel on our next step.'
Bernerd suggested, however, that the South Bank might look at a phased design for its centre, but said that the wave by Lord Rogers was too monumental to be built in stages. 'The design does not lend itself to a phased development because of the nature of the structure. It is not just a roof; it has walls and is a structure in itself.'
Allies and Morrison has had no contact with either the centre or the Arts Council. The practice said it would be prepared to redesign the South Bank Centre, but insisted it fully supported the Rogers design. Graham Morrison said it would be 'flattering' if Culture Secretary Chris Smith and the centre were to look again at its less costly and ambitious design. But he quashed any suggestion that his practice would jockey for position.
'I would be horrified if people thought we were being unsupportive or promoting change,' he said. 'We have worked closely with Richard Rogers' team. They have worked so hard and it is terribly dangerous to say we are looking to be opportunistic.'
He added: 'The competition brief was to attract many more people to the site. I would not claim our scheme was going to do that; it did not have the magic of the Rogers roof. Though ours might have cost less, the Rogers' scheme would generate more money.'
Nicholas Snowman, outgoing director of the South Bank Centre, said a meeting with Chris Smith and all interested parties was planned for early May. 'A project must go forward,' he said. 'Allies and Morrison's scheme was very good; you don't come second for nothing. We will have to wait and see what scheme is chosen.'
Snowman, who takes over at Glyndebourne in September, commented on the topsy-turvy nature of the project: 'When you buy a car, you look at what cash you have before buying it. That is not what we have done with the South Bank Centre.'