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Spence trumps Gehry in Sunderland

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Frank Gehry has missed out on designing a new bridge over the River Wear in Sunderland, ending more than a year of speculation about his role on the project.

The scheme will now be masterminded by Spence Associates, which saw off a host of big names including Wilkinson Eyre, Marks Barfield Architects and Gehry, to win the high-profile design competition.

The decision will comes as a shock to the Los Angeles-based architect, who has been widely tipped to land the £43 million project since early last year (AJ 11.03.04).

Things seemed to go wrong for Gehry's scheme from the start. Just weeks after his possible appointment was revealed, Sunderland City Council announced that the project would be delayed while it carried out a new transport and road study.

Then, about 12 months after Gehry's potential involvement first emerged, the council together with local regeneration agency Sunderland arc decided to launch a contest to find a designer for the new vehicle and pedestrian bridge.

Although Gehry teamed up with German firm Schlaich Bergermann und Parnter and WS Atkins consultants to vie for the job, they were eventually pipped by a design team made up of Spence and Techniker.

It is hoped the new bridge, which forms part of the wider Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor initiative, will act as 'an important gateway' to the city centre and help kick-start the city's urban regeneration.

by Richard Waite

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