President Jane Duncan intervenes in the ongoing row citing ‘extreme’ concerns about £175m scheme’s procurement
London’s £175million Garden Bridge project should be put on hold to allow a full investigation of its procurement to be carried out, RIBA president Jane Duncan has said.
Duncan said she was ‘extremely concerned’ about the fairness and transparency of the procurement following to the AJ’s long-running investigation and new revelations that designer Thomas Heatherwick and London mayor Boris Johnson promoted the Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge plan in San Francisco before the official 2013 TfL contest.
TfL judged Heatherwick Studio the winner against architect competitors Marks Barfield and Wilkinson Eyre in March 2013 - but observers questioned the result because of prior lobbying of the mayor and because of apparently irregular scoring of the bids uncovered by AJ under Freedom of Information.
Duncan told AJ: ‘The allegations relating to the procurement of the Garden Bridge are extremely concerning. All those who bid for work have a right to expect that their submissions will be judged fairly, transparently and in accordance with the law.
‘Given the high-profile nature of this project, the amount of public money at stake and the seriousness of the allegations, we would urge that the project is put on hold and the whole procurement process is then opened up to detailed scrutiny.
Our concerns are about the fairness and transparency of the procurement process
‘This is by no means a comment on the work of the immensely talented Heatherwick Studio and Arup teams. Our concerns are about the fairness and transparency of the procurement process.’
Neither London Eye designer Marks Barfield nor double Stirling prize-winning Wilkinson Eyre have ever commented on the row but both are RIBA chartered members. Thomas Heatherwick – a non-architect – is an RIBA honorary fellow.
Leader of the London Assembly Labour group Len Duvall claimed Duncan’s intervention showed how the mayor’s actions were now bringing TfL ‘into disrepute’.
‘RIBA is not only a deeply respected and non-partisan trade body it is also the voice of the architecture industry,’ he said. ‘This intervention shows that concerns about the procurement process for the Garden Bridge have spread far beyond the political world.
‘Johnson needs to accept that his cavalier actions, and failure to order a full and open investigation into how the Garden Bridge contract was decided, are now bringing the Transport for London into disrepute. This goes far beyond the Bridge, this scandal risks damaging TfL’s reputation and undermining trust in their ability to run fair and transparent procurements in the future.’
Heatherwick Studio and the Garden Bridge Trust both declined to comment.
A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: ’An audit of Transport for London’s procurement process has already found that it was open, fair and transparent; and the Mayor does not intend to halt a project that will be a spectacular new addition to London. Work on building the bridge is due to begin this year and is widely supported by Londoners and businesses on both sides of the river.’