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Yentob claims reconciliation for MacCormac over BBC snub

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Richard MacCormac visited BBC Broadcasting House three times in his final months and had reached ‘some reconciliation’ over the project, according to the corporation’s creative director, Alan Yentob

The former RIBA president, who died from cancer at the weekend, aged 75, was fired from the flagship project in 2005 after refusing to accept the dumbing-down of the designs.

MacCormac, the co-founder of MacCormac Jamieson Prichard Architects (MJP), said he and the practice had suffered ‘insufferable contempt’ during the construction process, arguing that the scheme was being stripped of its ‘architectural quality, until it [became] entirely unworthy of the BBC’.

Despite MacCormac’s efforts, contractor Bovis decided not to go ahead with some of the more elaborate architectural features of the project and later brought on board Sheppard Robson to finish the scheme, which eventually completed in 2013.

Yentob, who was involved in the original design competition and recently met MacCormac, said: ‘Richard visited Broadcasting House three times since last December, despite his illness.

‘The last time he was in a wheelchair. It was very moving. He came with his son, Will. Of course, he wanted to find closure, and so did we. It was the end of a journey and I’m glad to say there was some reconciliation.

‘I’m pleased that he finally had a different feeling about the project after all this heartache.’

In an official statement, the BBC said it wanted to ‘express its gratitude … for his creativity and passion, which drove the design for the transformed Broadcasting House in Portland Place.

‘He has endowed us with a truly world-class broadcast facility in the heart of the nation’s capital.’  Yet the AJ understands MacCormac was disappointed that the BBC never apologised over his removal from the landmark project.

His son, Will MacCormac, said: ‘Looking back at my father’s working life, it shouldn’t really be remembered for: a good building that could have been a great building.

‘His career was quite prolific, with wonderful ideas and details of which he would share and sketch out, usually with the help of a bottle or two of Pauillac in Jocasta’s kitchen.’

The BBC intends to install a plaque on the building to commemorate MacCormac.

MacCormac was best known for his university projects. He became a Royal Academician in 1993. He also worked on the Jubilee Line Extension Underground station at Southwark and the Phoenix regeneration scheme in Coventry, which was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize in 2004.

MJP co-founders Peter Jamieson and David Prichard said: ‘Richard was a pre-eminent designer, critic, writer and great raconteur; the profession has lost one of its leading lights of the past 50 years.

‘Richard always advocated a strong narrative to explain the influences, dilemmas and decisions designers confront. This insistent enquiry, rigorous analysis, use of wide ranging historical metaphors and articulate explanation helped win over many a client, academics especially, who needed words to better understand the drawn ideas and aesthetic propositions.’ 


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Readers' comments (1)

  • I wonder if Mr Yentob is at all aware of the irony in the work of such a very good architect being 'dumbed down' by the BBC, to cut costs, at a time when the BBC's own senior management - Yentob included - was busy maximising both their numbers and their 'compensation'.
    No wonder they fired their architect, but is it really seemly for Mr Yentob now to behave in a way which reads (to me, at any rate) as self interest?
    I hope the BBC seeks the 'no objection' of Peter Jamieson, David Pritchard and his son before installing a plaque to commemorate Richard MacCormac - for the quality of the buildings commissioned by clients of integrity, who believed in him, stands as eloquent memory to a very fine architect.
    And this in the same week that 'Private Eye' contrasts the firing of the Panorama team with the further padding of BBC management.

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