Dome Europe, the media's favourite to take over the Millennium Dome, has moved to categorically deny rumours that it has already dropped masterplanner Patrick Davies and declared that it is committed to the team which has prepared its bid.
The company, backed by Japanese banking giant Nomura, prepared a statement for the AJ this week in response to industry gossip to point out that it will retain its team and bolster it further with big-name architects if its bid is successful.
'Dome Europe has worked with over 40 professional advisors in the course of the bid process, ' it said. 'We will expect to continue to work with both these and others.
The concept will provide some of the most challenging and innovative opportunities in architecture and landscaping seen in London and we intend to take advantage of the great skills that exist in the UK.'
The latter part of the statement is being interpreted as a conscious attempt to emphasise British involvement given the bid's Japanese backers and work by HyperEntertainment, the US-based company responsible for many of Dome Europe's ideas.
Davies, profiled this week on pages 18-19, was working alongside Benoy, which Nomura said was largely dealing with a major 100,000m2 development outside the Dome, incorporating offices, housing, hotels, commercial space and open space. Other practices working on the 'urban entertainment centre' bid (AJ 6.7.00) include Weston Williamson, Design International, William Gower, small design house Blu, Conran Design Group and Fitch. Buro Happold, the original engineer of the Dome structure, has also been working on Dome Europe's scheme. It is understood, however, that despite its statement, Nomura has not given assurances to the practices involved that they will remain on board, although they have been paid for their services so far.
Ministers were expected to finally approve the Nomura bid ahead of the Lifschutz Davidson-designed hi-tech business park scheme for Legacy th is week before par l iament goes into recess on Fr iday, af ter the government put off an announcement scheduled for last Thursday. But the deal was far from being cut and dried. The result was being kept a closely guarded secret within Whitehall and by competition organiser English Partnerships as the AJ went to press.
Legacy's bid, backed by BT, 3Com, Imperial College and the Open University, includes a series of lightweight business units inside the Dome and a hotel and conference centre outside it. Property developer backer Robert Bourne is thought to have made a last-minute offer of £110 million for the 17ha site in a direct approach to ministers. This is, the AJ understands, more than the Nomura bid and Legacy could also be seen to represent a better political move in terms of regeneration and jobs - not to mention the fact that Nomura Principle Finance division's Guy Hands was best man at William Hague's wedding. But awarding the contract to Legacy could also be difficult politically and lead to accusations of croneyism - Bourne is a personal friend of Chris Smith and Labour party donor to the tune of £64,000.