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Wembley design team hit by more political pressure

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Wembley's chief architect, HOK Sport director Rod Sheard, this week admitted to the 'grief ' and 'tension' in the design team caused by the government's attempt to alter the design of the home of football to provide a permanent home for athletics.

Sheard's comments followed the decision to abandon plans to stage the 2005 World Athletics Championship at Wembley and build a dedicated track and field stadium at Picketts Lock in the Lee Valley in east London instead. The move marked a U-turn by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Chris Smith, who wanted football and athletics to cohabit at Wembley.

'It caused more work and grief, ' Sheard said. 'It made us come up with other proposals and it's all work and tension in the team.'

The 'World Stadium Team' is made up of architects from both Foster and Partners and HOK Sport, and it is understood that the collaboration on work and fees is split 60/40, with HOK the larger partner. Sheard said the design team's original 1999 design for a 6m high temporary platform for occasional athletic events is now likely to be included in the final plans. 'Every time the robustness of the bowl shape stands firm, ' he said.

However, elements of the Wembley scheme have been scaled back to reduce project costs and encourage City investment. The hotel and office complex adjoining the stadium will be built to shell and core stage only, saving £25 million, and the Football Association is being asked to invest more money up front as a show of confidence in the financial viability of the project.

The decision on Wembley triggered the announcement that Newcastle-based practice FaulknerBrowns will design the new Picketts Lock athletics stadium, which will be ready in time for the 2005 World Athletics Championships. The practice fought off competition from Miller Partnership, Arup Associates, Burland TM, BDP and Ward McHugh Associates. The scheme is for a 43,000-seat stadium which will be reduced to 20,000 after 2005, an indoor athletics centre, throwing field and warm-up track, all for £95 million.

'We need to examine ways of achieving the flexibility and the levels of support accommodation, ' said FaulknerBrowns partner Bill Stoner. 'It's fair to say we will be testing that figure.' Stoner also said the political involvement in the London stadia projects had affected his design team. It's very difficult when the brief-making process up to this stage is something we haven't been involved in and the politics was something we could not predict.'

The architects have already travelled to see athletics stadia in Paris and Brussels and are set to submit a planning application in October.

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