Foster makes his last stand and refuses to take Wembley plan back to drawing board

Norman Foster has refused to bow to pressure to redesign Wembley Stadium after Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said it would not serve as a venue for a British Olympic bid.

Norman Foster has refused to bow to pressure to redesign Wembley Stadium after Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said it would not serve as a venue for a British Olympic bid.

Lord Foster has handed the plans back to the minister without addressing any of the alleged flaws identified in a controversial report commissioned by the Government.

Yesterday Lord Foster responded angrily to criticism that his designs for the new £475m stadium would not provide enough seats for a major athletic event.

The Dome, he said, could be used for an Olympic opening ceremony if the organisers of what would be a once-in-a-generation event were adamant that 80,000 spectators had to be accommodated.

"Look at athletics events on TV and there are all those empty spaces," Lord Foster said.

"If the British Olympics Committee need 80,000 spectators for the opening ceremony of the Olympic games why don't they stage it in the Dome? Or Hyde Park?" The games could then transfer to the new multipurpose stadium, provided as much as £13.5bn was spent on an Olympic village and on warm-up athletic tracks outside the stadium.

"It's a world-class stadium, and a great cause for national celebration. This storm in a teacup is damaging in terms of the national interest. Wembley Stadium will be the envy of so many nations." The words conceal his disappointment at the report drawn up by the US-based Ellerbe Becket, which said the redesign was unsuitable for international athletics.

Lord Foster was appalled at the theatrical way in which Mr Smith responded to the report, which, he says, was full of "totally spurious and unfounded criticism" and compiled without any approach being made to Foster and Partners.

"You have to think very carefully before you go out internationally rubbishing a project, especially when it is this close to being delivered."

Lord Foster insisted that the architectural reputation of his firm and partners, HOK Lobb, had been compromised. He made clear he may consider legal action to defend his firm against the report's criticism. In a signal that the architects may sue, he said: "The architectural reputation of both HOK Lobb and Foster Partners has been put on the line. This report could affect our credibility around the world."

He added that every design requirement had been met and the capacity had been exceeded, with spectator seats for football up to 90,000 and 68,000 for athletics.

Rather than be blamed for scuppering Britain's attempt to host the Olympics in 2012, Lord Foster has made a gesture to Mr Smith by sending him a computerised image to prove that it is possible to squeeze another 12,000 seats in the lower tier around the track, taking it up to 80,000.

But the architect does not regard this as the solution, especially after Juan Antonio Samaranch, the president of the International Olympic Committee, said that Olympic bidders do not need stadiums with 80,000 spectators for athletics.

Most of the report's criticism was levelled at the way in which Wembley Stadium converts to athletics events.

A vast concrete platform would be erected over the football pitch for the athletics track on the top of it. "You could run a Centurion tank over it," said Lord Foster.

An alternative mooted has been the Stade de France in Paris, where retractable seating can be moved to reveal a permanent athletics track.

This earns Lord Foster's scorn. "That stadium, held up as something to aspire to, is derisory. I have studied the Stade to damned death and it's sight line on the upper tiers are poor. Think of Wembley as a theatre. ... the best seats to the stage, whether athletics or football, want to be close to the action. No spectator has been compromised in our design."

Privately, Lord Foster believes the Ellerbe Becket report will be discredited. In the meantime he rejects all their criticism.

The partial roof coverage over the track which they claim is unfair to athletes is rejected. So is the east-west orientation of the track, which was criticised for blinding athletes. Their criticism of the lack of provision for access for marathons is wrong, since the design has ramp access to the tracks at the north-east corner.

"There is no doubt that you are challenged as a designer in the quest for something that is absolutely brilliant for both athletics and football. It's been an almighty challenge and that is why it is so maddening that we have achieved all of that and that it has been rubbished. The French must love that".

All the more ironic is the fact that the athletic Norman Foster runs eight miles four or five days a week, while he does not support a football club. He is already in training for the Swiss marathon, and spoiling for a good fight.

News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness