The dean and chapter of Salisbury Cathedral has been branded 'irresponsible' after rejecting about £150,000 of design work by top-name architects including Studio Libeskind, David Chipperfield Architects and Allies & Morrison.
The cathedral had run a competition to design a new home for the Magna Carta (AJ 15.6.00) but rejected all six shortlisted designs.
'It's important that not too many competitions go this way, ' said Graham Morrison, Allies & Morrison partner and a Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment design review committee member. 'There must have been a mistake in the brief because all six can't have got it wrong. It has been very frustrating - you don't mind losing as long as the best scheme wins.'
The dean and chapter admitted that cathedral officials are planning to change the brief because they realise that some of the entries may have met the initial brief fully but were still unacceptable.
The rejected practices were told their schemes were unsuitable but were not told why. 'The secrecy camouflages a level of irresponsibility, 'Morrison said. The other three shortlisted architects were Munkenbeck + Marshall, Evans & Shalev and Ian Ritchie Architects. Each practice was paid £3000 as an honorarium, but Morrison estimated that around £150,000 was spent by practices entering the competition.
The cathedral spokesman said the search for a designer will be widened again and the shortlisted practices will be able to enter new designs. Munkenbeck + Marshall has already said that it has a number of alternative designs for the dean and chapter to consider. Others revealed disappointment that the cathedral had rejected the schemes without admitting that a rethink over the brief had taken place. More permanent facilities will be built alongside the new development to house the Magna Carta.
The cathedral does not have a good track record. Last year it abandoned a design by Munkenbeck + Marshall for a new visitor centre and cafe and sacked the head of visitor services for 'forcing its hands' on the issue. In its place it appointed Michael Drury Architects to design the new temporary cafe facilities (pictured).