Opera house design winner rebuffed

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The dramatic competition winning design for the proposed National Opera House for Wales at Cardiff Bay has been effectively rejected by the Welsh National Opera Trust. The trust announced yesterday afternoon that it intended to rerun the second, design stage of the competition, pitting the winner, Zaha Hadid, against Sir Norman Foster and Partners and Manfredi Nicoletti, runners-up to Hadid.

The move is an unpredecented one; the winner of an architectural competition normally gets to build the design.

Since Zaha Hadid won the competition for the prestigious £43m opera house shortly before Christmas, there has been much bad-mouthing of her design in Wales. Manfredi Nicoletti was invited to talk to the Cardiff Business Forum to represent his "crystal wave" design - a local favourite - while an exhibition of all the competition entries was held in London at the ITN Building, Gray's Inn Road, a design by Sir Norman Foster. Meanwhile, Hadid was asked to revise several aspects of her winning design and to prove that it would not go over budget; this she did, at the end of December, apparently to the satisfaction of the trust.

In the meantime, the Welsh National Opera Trust has organised a process of local consultation on the designs.Lord Crickhowell, representing the trust, says the trustees want to make a comparison between the designs of Nicoletti, Hadid and Foster.

At the presentation of the winning scheme last year, the limitations of both the Nicoletti and Foster schemes were pointed out by representatives of the judging committee and the Opera Trust.

"The decision casts doubts both on the validity of the assessors and the competition as a whole", said Francis Duffy, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, last night. "Zaha Hadid has shown that she can meet the demands of a changing design brief."