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WHL/Woods Bagot chief leaves to start own practice

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The chairman of WHL/Woods Bagot, Chris Cotton, has left the company and set up his own firm.

He has taken three members of staff and the management of the gigantic Maitreya Buddha project with him.

Cotton has confirmed that he grew disillusioned after Whinney Mackay-Lewis was bought by Australian practice Woods Bagot (AJ 29.3.01).

He left the company in March but he has been joined by architects Mark Limbrick and Nick Readett-Bayley, who left the firm last week.

'I didn't want to be part of that business, ' Cotton told the AJ. 'I wanted something far more exciting and far more challenging than trying to build up an international, commercial firm.'

Cotton's new Covent Garden-based practice AROS (the Gaelic for 'habitation') is now the lead design consultancy for India's 150m high Maitreya Buddha (AJ 19.4.01) and will project manage the scheme when it moves to Bodhgaya next year.

WHL/Woods Bagot will continue to work on detailing the scheme for the next six months.

After the takeover of WHL, Buddha project client MPI became anxious that the good relationship it had established with Cotton would be threatened and actively encouraged him to leave and set up on his own. Cotton insists, however, that the break with the company, where he had worked for 27 years, was 'amicable'.

'The client wanted to ensure that the project remained in the hands of the people who had given a lot of leadership, push and direction into getting the designs moving, ' said Cotton, who described the development as 'the opportunity of a lifetime'.

He said he now aims to build up a practice of 'young, talented designers' and is considering concentrating on religious buildings.

WHL/Woods Bagot managing director Bob Kimble said that 'everyone was pleased with the way things have worked out'.

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