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Chinese whispers

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After the completion of embassies in Berlin and Moscow, Foreign and Commonwealth Office thoughts have turned eastwards, to Beijing.

Astragal understands that a decision in principle has been reached to commission a new embassy. As with any such project there will be dilemmas. Should the FCO go for a competition as it has done successfully in recent years?

Would it be acceptable for an overseas firm of architects to produce an embassy for our boys?

Then there is the procurement question. Michael Wilford was deeply critical in public and private about the effects of a PFI procedure on his Berlin design. Baroness Scotland, the elegant minister with responsibility for architecture within the department, recently stated that paying architects proper fees had always represented good value, and that the FCO had always been happy with the result.

This was taken by some at the CABE/government conference where she made the remarks as implied criticism of PFI procedures.

Recent experience of British architects in China has not been all sweetness and light. While Te r r y Farrell is undertaking substantial work there, he was pipped at the post in respect of a new opera house in Tiananmen Square, by a French office which received substantial backing from its government (unlike Farrell).

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