Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

And that was the year that was

  • Comment

From Ground Zero to the Thames Gateway, 2003 saw redevelopment high on the agenda. There were triumphs for Herzog & de Meuron, Jørn Utzon and Renzo Piano.

Zoë Blackler recounts the year when blue blobs and red trousers were all the rage


The start of the new year was the beginning of the end for Brighton's historic West Pier.Heavy storms in the last days of 2002 wrought serious structural damage, with worse to come.An arson attack in May raised further questions about the wisdom of renovating the Edwardian landmark, with calls for a fresh modern start.

Architecture's great and good came out against the looming invasion of Iraq.The campaign Architects Against the War, spearheaded by Charles Jencks and RIBA president Paul Hyett, called on the government to halt its moves towards war.

The government published its White Paper into the future of higher education, which critics warned would lead to a two-tier system.The proposal that architectural firms should pay off the student debts of their newly qualified employees also faced opposition from smaller practices.


Spaniard Raphael Moneo (right) won the RIBA's 2003 Royal Gold Medal.

Daniel Libeskind became the world's most talked about architect after triumphing in the contest to reconstruct Ground Zero.As attention died down, in-fighting began between the official winner Libeskind and owner Larry Silverstein's own architect Daniel Childs of SOM. In October, Foster, the original people's choice, was brought on board as a collaborator.

John Prescott published the Sustainable Communities Plan.Delivery of his vision for major development in the South East, in particular in the Thames Gateway, was a recurrent issue throughout the year.


As troops entered Iraq, UK practices found themselves sidelined, with US firms sewing up the most lucrative deals.The British Consultants and Construction Bureau pledged to push for greater involvement for UK architects in the post-war reconstruction and a handful of practices secured major projects later in the year.

Peter Smithson died aged 79.

BDP came top in the AJ 100 survey of the country's largest firms, with 270 qualified architects.Norman Foster was voted the most admired living architect.


A row exploded over Grimshaw's Bath Spa as contractor, architect and client attempted to pass the blame for six months of delays and a £3 million overspend.As the year closed, final completion still remained a long way off.

The government's planning bill - its attempt to speed up the aged planning system - fell foul of another archaic system as it began its passage through parliament.By June, Prescott confirmed the bill would be held over until 2004, blaming the Iraq war for the delay.

Jørn Utzon won the 2003 Pritzker Prize.


The AJ uncovered government plans to drop the country house clause in PPG 7, prompting outrage from the profession.A campaign against the move, which would end the modern revival of the country house tradition, built over the summer with an Early Day Motion attracting support from politicians as diverse as Chris Smith, Teddy Taylor and Tam Dalyell.

Tony Blair gave his backing to a London 2012 Olympic bid, and a competition to masterplan sites for the games attracted world-class entries.A team of EDAW, HOK Sport, Foreign Office Architects and Allies and Morrison won the job. Its initial proposals, unveiled in October, created a giant park and new 'water city' in the Lower Lea Valley.


Oscar Niemeyer was the surprise choice to create the Serpentine's annual summer pavilion, following Hadid, Libeskind and Ito.

The concrete and glass structure parked on the gallery's lawn until September, when it was dismantled and sold to a mystery Irish collector.

Liverpool won the race to become Europe's Capital of Culture in 2008. Alsop's plans for a Fourth Grace gave kudos to the city's bid, but doubts later emerged about whether the 'Cloud'would be complete in time.

The Welsh Assembly confirmed that Richard Rogers would see through construction of his new parliament building for the principality.


As George Ferguson replaced Paul Hyett as president of the RIBA, he resisted calls to drop his trademark red trousers and pledged to put conservation back at the heart of RIBA activities.The institute pressed ahead with its modernisation plans, but in the autumn announced it had delayed appointing a permanent director for its new charitable arm.

A root and branch shake-up of the listings system proposed giving English Heritage the power to decide on listings, prompting critics to warn of a conflict of interests.

The plans, set to become a White Paper in the spring, also mooted a right of appeal.

Alarm followed Cambridge University's decision to drop its diploma course following cuts in its research funding. If this could happen to Cambridge, where would be next?


A dramatic blue blob landed in the centre of Bimingham and Future Systems' long-awaited Selfridges became an instant icon.

As the temperature soared, breaking new records across Europe, sustainability experts made an urgent plea for drastic action to green the nation's building stock and combat global warming.

Cedric Price, influential visionary and thinker, died.Acolytes called for the RIBA to change its rules and posthumously award him the Royal Gold Medal.


Ian Ritchie's tower cluster on London's Potters'Fields - which gained notoriety as the temporary home of illusionist David Blaine - got the thumbs down from Southwark Council and left Ritchie fuming.An inquiry into the controversial residential scheme - which will see CABE and the GLA lined up against English Heritage and the Royal Palaces - is bound to grab the headlines in 2004.

As one planning battle began, another drew to a close.

After 18 months deliberation, John Prescott ruled against Chapman Taylor's Coppergate shopping centre in York.An unusual line up at the inquiry in 2002 saw CABE joining with local campaigners against the scheme, with English Heritage appearing in its defence.


No great surprises at the Stirling Prize in Bristol, as favourite Herzog & de Meuron's Laban dance centre ran off with the top honour. Changes to the rules will allow foreign architects to compete next year - a move that would allow Gehry's Maggie's Centre to enter, which opened in September.

Scotland followed England's lead by creating its own CABEstyle design watchdog.

A major financial crisis takes grip at the RIBA, causing it to review its activities and propose cuts to membership services.


The skyscraper revival got a fresh boost and London a dramatic addition to its skyline as Renzo Piano's 'Shard of Glass'cleared the final hurdle.Prescott cited the beauty of the London Bridge Tower as key when he ruled in its favour, following an inquiry in the spring.

Meanwhile the deputy prime minister cosied up with the arch-detractor of towers and Modern architecture in general, the Prince of Wales, whose theories on urbanism are set to be the driving force behind the massive development of the Thames Gateway.

The illegal destruction of Greenside, Connell Ward Lucas' Modernist classic in Surrey, by its unappreciative owner causes outrage and calls for a prosecution.


Revelations continued to emerge from the inquiry into the Holyrood cost fiasco, which opened in October.Two key figures in the project, first minister Donald Dewar and Spanish architect Enric Miralles, both now deceased, became the focus for blame.

The spiralling costs continued to dog the project throughout the year, with the latest estimates reaching £401 million.

The rise and rise of Foreign Office Architects continued apace with its critically acclaimed exhibition at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, coinciding with its latest competition win - a new state-of-the-art music centre for the BBC in west London.

AA graduate and Rotterdam-based Rem Koolhaas was named as the RIBA's 2004 Royal Gold Medalist.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.

Related Jobs

AJ Jobs