My first week as editor of the AJ, and a young architect has been screwed over. London practice Mangera Yvars has been replaced on the east London mega mosque by Allies and Morrison (see pages 12-13), in a project where the client has acted first incompetently (allowing bad press to accumulate around the project for two years), and then underhandedly, unceremoniously jettisoning the youngsters for a safe pair of hands.
Allies and Morrison had the chance to collaborate, but turned it down. It wanted the project, so it took it. Mangera Yvars is now left to pursue opportunities elsewhere.
Allies and Morrison has a fantastic record of patronage of other architects, inviting an array of talented and underused practices to design buildings within its many masterplans. And there is no mistaking its good taste. Look at King's Cross (Tony Fretton, Stanton Williams and others), Brent Cross (Buschow Henley, Maccreanor Lavington), and its masterplan for Land Securities at Victoria (Benson & Forsyth, Lynch Architects). A literate, late Modernism is the order of the day.
This is all to the good. If it's your masterplan, you get to choose. But the mosque project had won a competition and is outside the Olympic masterplan (though near the edge). Zaha Hadid told the AJ she turned down the invitation to pitch for the project out of respect for the original architect. The inescapable feeling is that Allies and Morrison just felt it could do a better job.
In refusing to work with Mangera Yvars, perhaps Allies and Morrison has revealed no more than its aesthetic predilections. The gofaster forms of the original mosque project are certainly not of the type appreciated by the firm's icon-hating partners.
Allies and Morrison is the 12th-largest practice in the country, and has become a gatekeeper to work. This is perhaps a sign of the kind of architecture that will not pass through.