New Labour is trying to unload a 'Thatcherite' and 'scruffy' deal for the London mayor's new assembly building, say leading designers.
Nick Raynsford, the minister for London and construction, was involved in a heated row after unveiling a shortlist for a competition that included seven sites and for the 13,000m2 Greater London Authority home. Royal Opera House architect Edward Jones and Tony Fretton accused him of putting the interests of developers and finance above those of architecture. He should have chosen a site and then the best designer, they said. Instead he is to choose developer-led teams for the new-build or refurbishment project.
Jones said: 'This sticks in the gullet. The Greater London Council has been gone for more than a decade and I remember Thatcher wiping it out. Now we have a new government, a new mayor on the way and everybody is excited. Yet we seem to be going about it in a mode of operation used by the last government: under-emphasising the value of strong competition and striking a scruffy deal.'
Fretton, who designed London's Lisson Gallery, said it was a commercially- driven process totally at odds with the spirit of a public building of such importance.
But Raynsford argued that the competition tied in with the Egan Report on new ways of procurement. 'I think there is a great deal to learn,' he said. 'It is not just about procurement, it is about buildings that will demonstrate savings on lifetime costs and energy use. We are trying to encourage higherstandards in construction as well as design and we want a building that is an exemplar.'
He did not, however, rule out starting a new competition, saying that if no scheme was worthy he would reconsider the process.
The shortlisted entrants are: Canary Wharf with developer Canary Wharf Ltd using Terry Farrell and Partners; London Bridge City with cit and Stanhope using Foster and Partners; Regent's Place with British Land Co using Sheppard Robson.
Victoria Town Square was put forward by Point Ventures using Munkenbeck + Marshall; Camelford House by Chelsfield using Watts and Partners; Vauxhall Cross by St George South London using Broadway Malyan; and Victoria House by William Pears Group and Blackfriars Investment using Gensler.
See pages 18 and 19