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'Questionable' U2 Dublin tower competition hits the wrong note

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An anonymous competition to design a new skyscraper and recording studio for rock group U2 in Dublin has sparked a series of claims and counterclaims over the 'probity' of its organisation.

Critics - including two British offices - are furious that the names of practices interested in the competition entered the public realm before the deadline for submissions had passed.

However, competition organiser the Dublin Docklands Development Agency (DDDA), said no rules had been broken.

Last week - after a six-month wait - the DDDA named a joint bid from Burdon Dunne Architects and Craig Henry Architects, both from County Dublin, as the winner. It also highly commended an entry by London-based Simon Innes and Stephen Barton.

Other Brits that had expressed interest in the project included Ahrends, Burton and Koralek, Foster and Partners, Ian Simpson Architects, Hamilton Associates and Sheppard Robson.

John Assael of Assael Architecture, also London-based, slammed the way the competition had been organised. 'We spent £18,000 on our entry and it is disappointing to see the probity of the competition being questioned, ' he said.

Assael said he was shocked to receive an email from the organisers before the deadline for submissions had passed with a list of interested practices at the top. 'Right from the beginning the competition was tainted and questionable, ' he said.

He said he had been led to believe that the DDDA had commissioned the accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to audit all the entries before a winner was announced. The DDDA denies this accusation.

Competition organiser Neil Mulcahy admitted that sending the email containing the practice names had been a mistake, blaming an 'IT failure'. He insisted that this did not break the competition's rules.

However, the release of candidates at that stage of the competition falls short of the standards employed by the RIBA Competitions Office.

But Mulcahy insisted the accusations were wrong. 'We are a small organisation and it took a long time but we did not break any rules. However, if I had had any idea of how many entries we were going to get, I would probably have farmed out the bureaucracy to someone else, ' Mulcahy added.

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