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Georgia crisis throws UK firms' work into limbo

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A host of projects led by UK architects in Georgia have been thrown into serious doubt following the brutal conflict between the former Soviet state and Russia.

Plans for a new British embassy on the outskirts of the Georgian capital of Tblisi, designed by Michael Wilford Architects, have been put on hold after Russian and Georgian troops went into combat over the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Wilford, who previously worked with the late James Stirling, won a Foreign and Commonwealth Office competition in April last year, seeing off Jestico + Whiles Architects and Terry Pawson to secure the scheme.

Wilford told the AJ: ‘We were hoping to start on site later in the year but we don’t have a clue what will happen now. I don’t think anyone does. The last meeting we had was to organise putting the project out for tender.’

The Foreign Office said it was advising British nationals to evacuate Georgia, and that it was too early to make any predictions as to when work could take place on the project.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: ‘Obviously there is no point building something if there is a reasonable risk of it being razed to the ground before it is finished.’

Chapman Taylor Architects has also been hit by the conflict. The firm is working on a retail-led scheme in Tblisi for a Lithuanian client, which includes an 80,000m2 two-level shopping and entertainment centre and two 20,000m2 office towers.

Chapman Taylor says the client is still willing to proceed with the scheme but cannot predict when the project will restart. ‘We have to wait until the situation calms down,’ said a spokeswoman.

bdp.com/” target=”_blank”>BDP, which is working on the early stages of a hospital in Georgia, said it is ‘monitoring the situation carefully’.

A BDP statement said: ‘We are in daily contact with the client, and we are working on the basis that diplomatic relations will be maintained. We hope the current situation won’t affect the progress too much, and we are supporting the client in these difficult times.’

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