Architect Will Alsop has staged a last-ditch attempt to win the controversial competition to design the gla headquarters building. He has presented an alternative, toned-down, cheaper scheme to English Heritage, which meets its concerns but also, he says, maintains the 'spirit' of the original.
Alsop told the aj that last Friday he met eh regional director for London, Philip Davies, and the head of the North and East London team, Paddy Pugh - but not chairman Sir Jocelyn Stevens, who was abroad - to show them his 'ways forward', in the light of the government agency's recent public comments on his (unfinished) proposal.
Initially both Alsop and Foster & Partners had been told simply to seek the views of eh and the Royal Fine Art Commission, but not to make alterations to their designs as a consequence. But in view of the public nature of the consultation period comments, Alsop said it had been decided to change tack and put two schemes on the table for the government to choose between.
'We wanted to show that our scheme is infinitely adaptable,' said Alsop, as opposed to Foster's 'rigid icon'. Alsop's reworked proposals chiefly seek to adapt plans for Bloomsbury Square and replace the external 'crystals' or pods and screen with a porte-cochere in front of the Grade II-listed building. The external 'crystals', which were to have held committee rooms, will join others inside containing a main assembly chamber and offices for members. Inside there will also be space for public facilities, including a newspaper shop, a bank, administration and restaurants. The practice has also offered an alternative treatment to the roof, maintaining the extra accommodation through using existing planning permission for an additional floor in the developer's hotel proposal.
Alsop said that it was no more of a 'toned-down' scheme than Foster and Partners' eventual design for the Reichstag compared with its original intention. 'It will still be an exciting and publicly accessible and original scheme,' he said. 'eh felt more comfortable with it'.
The major revisions would enable the mayor's office to be available in June 2000, with the rest of the accommodation for the gla and mayor's staff by the end of the year.
Malory Clifford, managing director of developer Blackfriars Investments, said: 'We have addressed all the design concerns raised by eh, and the minister for London will now be able to make a decision based on design and deliverability criteria without the worry that eh might object and cause delay.'
He added that the developer has also reduced its costs and, in an echo of Sir Jocelyn Stevens' infamous comments on the two rival schemes, said: 'We have always believed that Victoria House is the right building in the right location at the heart of London.'
London minister Nick Raynsford is now expected to make a decision at the end of next week.
Foster and Partners refused to comment on its proposal for London Bridge City - found to be the 'favoured site' of 60 per cent of respondents in a detr survey of 1033 people conducted last week.