Lord Callaghan’s design assessment panel has unanimously recommended Richard Rogers as architect for the new National Assembly for Wales building. Following a day-long series of interviews and discussions, Richard Rogers Partnership was picked from the six short-listed architects who presented designs last week (AJ 15.10.98).
In Cardiff last Friday, Lord Callaghan said: ‘The presentations were outstanding from a world-class set of design teams.’
He said that the panel had been won over by the scheme’s merits of being simple, straightforward, elegant and economic. ‘It allows for light and transparency and will provide generous open spaces.’ In his view, the design represented the ‘open modern democracy’ that the Welsh Assembly must be.
He revealed that the Rogers design was costed at just under £10m, well within the proposed £11.5m budget.
Emphasising that the winning entry was purely a concept rather than a definitive model of what would be built, Lord Callaghan said that what was now needed was a full partnership between Richard Rogers and the Welsh Office to bring in what he hoped would be ‘a great building, one of the most instantly recognisable pieces of architecture’.
He called the Rogers concept ‘a little gem of a building’.
Asked about generally adverse public reaction to the display of the six finalists’ models, Lord Callaghan said the panel had heard and read the various comments, but its concerns covered more than the visual appearance. ‘We had to consider such matters as the environment, the planned location, internal space and accessibility, and whether the chosen building would work or not.
We chose the Rogers design on its overall merits.’
The general view is that Lord Callaghan and his team have made a safe choice, and the former prime minister admitted that he was ‘not renowned for being a revolutionary in such matters’.
Both the Western Mail and the South Wales Echo took a fairly hard-line towards to the shortlisted designs and polled their readers. The public’s favourite scheme was that produced by the MacCormac Jamieson Prichard team.
The hastily-conceived moves to open the designs to public consultation (AJ 15.10.98) have been roundly criticised in the principality, particularly by the Civic Trust for Wales, and there are growing demands for greater public input into the design process.
Welsh Office sources say that this will not happen before Welsh secretary of state Ron Davies gives his approval to the design panel’s recommendation.