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Welsh parliament judges look for safe design options

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The new National Assembly building at Cardiff Bay will not be especially adventurous, according to the members of the seven-strong selection panel headed by the former prime minister and Cardiff mp Lord Callaghan.

Lord Callaghan says that what is needed is a prestigious building, and he expects the competition to attract entries of the highest quality: 'I hope that Welsh architects will be there, either on their own or as members of international teams.'

The search for entrants will begin this week, with advertisements in the national press and the eu Official Journal, and architects will then have six weeks to decide if they wish to enter the competition.

Other members of Callaghan's panel expressed somewhat amorphous visions of what the panel would like to see. 'Whoever the architect is, there has got to be an overall understanding of Wales,' said Angela Giddens, a Cardiff-based designer. 'We are talking about a symbol of Wales,' added Mike Reilly, managing director of a Llanelli-based motor-components manufacturer. 'It cannot be bland. It must be a powerful, distinctive building, but when I say distinctive I do not mean outrageous.'

As well as Elinor Bennett, a harpist and a member of the Arts Council of Wales, and Robin Williams, vice-chancellor of the University of Wales Swansea, the panel includes two architects: Robin Nicholson, a director of Edward Cullinan Architects and a past vice-president of the riba, and award-winning London-based Ian Ritchie.

Five or six entrants will be asked to produce outline designs and models, which will then go on exhibition throughout Wales. The final decision will be made by Welsh secretary of state Ron Davies in October or November this year.

Lord Callaghan promises that the whole selection process will be open to public scrutiny: 'We intend very much to keep the public informed of our progress stage by stage as we move on. It's a symbolic task and all of us are aware of the importance and significance of Wales's first democratic building.'

Enric Miralles has teamed up with rmjm Scotland in his bid to scoop the job to design the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh. The new alliance faces opposition from four other teams on the shortlist: Richard Meier/Keppie; Rafael Vinoly/Reiach and Hall; Michael Wilford; and Glass Murray/Denton Corker Marshall.

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