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Alsop, CABE slate Met Office's Broadway Malyan choice

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Broadway Malyan has won the battle to build the new headquarters for the Met Office in Exeter, drawing criticism from both Will Alsop, who lost out on the £60 million project, and CABE.

Alsop said he was 'somewhat confused' by the decision. He admitted that although his design was more expensive than the rival scheme, energysaving features built into his proposal would have made it cheaper in the long run.He was also critical of the low ranking PFI projects give to design.

'We know we were higher in capital costs, but our operating costs were extremely competitive, ' he said. 'This sends out a signal to anyone involved in PFI that the architect doesn't matter. If that's the case, they'll just go to the cheap provider.'

Alsop's remarks were backed by CABE chief executive Jon Rouse, who said the decision was incompatible with the government's statements on design. Two months ago CABE dismissed the Broadway Malyan scheme as 'disappointing' and no more than 'a piece of reasonable, competent, corporate business park architecture' (AJ 19.4.01).

'CABE is an advisory body and we have to accept that we win some, we lose some, ' said Rouse. 'It is disappointing that the weaker scheme, in design terms, has been chosen.The design is not compatible with the standards articulated by the prime minister in Better Public Buildings and we will be making this clear to the relevant ministers.'

But Broadway Malyan director Stephen Bragg defended his design as 'dramatic' and 'cutting edge'.The practice is now looking at adding energy generating features to its scheme, including wind turbines and photovoltaic cells.

A spokesman for the Met Office said the scheme, led by software firm Logica, should not be judged on architecture alone. 'We had to look at the whole project - moving, installing the IT, managing the building for 15 years. On all these criteria, Broadway Malyan was the best.'

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