Munkenbeck + Marshall has lost a prestigious project to design a dramatic new glass cafe in Salisbury Cathedral because the man who commissioned the practice has been fired, for 'forcing the hands' of the cathedral's five-strong ruling body.
Barry Mason, the former head of visitor services, said to have upped attendances and profits in his 18 months at the 1220 landmark, is now involved in an industrial tribunal over the affair. Initially he invited Foster and Partners to provide new shopping and cafe facilities, but after Foster's partner Spencer de Grey visited the cathedral, the practice turned down the chance to get involved, seeing the £1 million project as too small. Instead, de Grey is said to have recommended a number of practices to come forward with a scheme: Walters and Cohen, Rick Mather Architects and Munkenbeck + Marshall among them. m+m was eventually appointed around six weeks ago.
The scheme involves demolishing 'wooden huts' and creating a dramatic 50m x 12m glass roof over the 'plumbery' inside the cathedral, offering impressive views up the famous spire, with gift shop and coffee house facilities beneath. Mason went on local television to publicise the scheme, without the express backing of the ruling cathedral staff who are thought to be more in favour of holding a competition to design an external museum of the Magna Carta. Mason was seen to be attempting to promote his own favoured project and was sacked.
A cathedral spokesman said it was 'inappropriate to discuss the issue' because of the industrial tribunal. 'At the minute we do not wish to do anything to jeopardise proceedings,' he said.