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CABE sun shines on Alsop designs for Exeter Met Office

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The Met Office moved a step closer to picking Alsop Architects' scheme for its new Exeter head office after the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment slammed the proposal from rival bidders Broadway Malyan as no more than 'a piece of reasonable, competent corporate business park architecture'.

A decision is unlikely to be taken before midMay, but the CABE report is certain to have a bearing on the final outcome.

'We will certainly be taking into account the CABE report - it was at our invitation, ' Met Office director of relocation Stephen Noyes told the AJ.

The report gave the Alsop scheme an almost unqualified thumbs up, but condemned the Broadway Malyan proposal as 'disappointing' and 'lacking in ambition'. The report reads like a catalogue of complaints and is critical of the building's plan, its environmental approach, lack of clarity over the location of the entrance and even the landscaping.

'The modesty of the architecture may be deliberate: certainly, showiness would not guarantee a successful result. The challenge here, however, is to measure up to the aspirations of its high profile client for a distinctive flagship headquarters building which will represent it to the outside world, perhaps appearing daily on television screens as a backdrop to weather forecasts, ' says the report.

'The client has asked for a building which projects an image appropriate to a high-tech, world-leading and science-based organisation. That is quite a challenge. . . We do not think that this design has succeeded in rising to that challenge.'

The two practices are members of two rival consortia bidding for the £60 million project which involves running the centre for 15 years. Alsop is part of the M-Logic consortium led by Amey, while Broadway Malyan's Stratus consortium is led by IT firm Logica. Alsop's scheme was praised by CABE's design review committee, which called the proposal 'high class', 'robust' and 'striking'.

Noyes commented that the Met Office was 'pleased' to be working with Will Alsop on one of the designs, but stressed, however, that architecture was only one element among a range of factors the evolution team had to weigh up before making a decision. Relocation logistics, IT, and support and building management were also key factors, he said.

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