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Briefing - Lord Rogers in Cardiff

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Lord Rogers has described the Welsh Assembly as 'one of the best buildings we have ever designed', but its future is now uncertain. Suffering from critical cost analysis, and a dispute over what is and is not included in the architect's contract, the project is now on hold. The design team, including engineer Arup and contractor Skanska, has been suspended.

This is a peculiar time to halt construction: site work began four months ago and the foundations are in. And design changes have already been made in order to reduce costs - the courtyard has disappeared and the roof is now to be smaller.

But the Assembly has every right to invite another team in to progress the design.The project has now reached RIBA stage D and the client is entitled to take over the design.There are no copyright complications and, so far, no one is yet considering legal action over the suspension.

The problem comes down to trust. Richard Rogers Partnership says it will guarantee that the building can be completed for about £13.2 million, provided extras are not thrown in at the last minute. But Welsh Assembly officials simply do not believe it.

The two sides cannot even agree on basic costs. RRP has complained that the demand to use indigenous materials such as Welsh slate is driving up prices, but officials dispute this.

Welsh slate was, in fact, the cheapest on offer, they say.

Both RIBA president Paul Hyett and RSAW president Skip Belton have offered to mediate.

The fee structure is also bothering officials, who estimate that (due to their revised cost estimate) RRP's fees have risen from £2 million to 'at least' £3.4 million. 'Fees are closely linked to the final construction cost.

This fee structure provides no incentives for the architect to keep costs down, 'says an Assembly statement.

Officials are now set to begin a search for a new design team, commencing with an advert in the Official Journal of the European Communities .

For more on the Welsh Assembly row visit www. ajplus.co. uk

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