Architecture: The big issue

London's Mayor will be looking for a new home

Nonie Niesewand
Sunday 23 October 2011 07:01

EVEN AS the principal girls dress up as Dick Whittington, Lord Mayor of London, for the Christmas pantomime, the Minister for London, Nick Raynsford, should be donning a highwayman's cocked hat.

His hijacking of the competition to find a suitable building for the future mayor of London has angered architects who feel excluded from the design process.

The Government decided it could not afford to commission a new home for the mayor and his assembly, now that County Hall is an aquarium and hotel.

So the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions approached estate agents Knight Frank & Rutley to find six property developers with suitable locations on either side of the River Thames, from Vauxhall to Docklands, that they were willing to rent out for 15 years.

Nick Raynsford shortlisted Will Alsop's refurbishment of the 1924 listed building in Bloomsbury, Victoria House, and Norman Foster's new building in London Bridge.

"Absolutely no reflection on the architects, they're among the best we have, but the process of selection is so questionable," said Richard Rogers.

"The GLC was one of the most important city buildings in Europe. London is twice as big as any other capital and the Government is thinking about shoving the mayor and his assembly in an old building.

"Why should Scotland and Wales have properly run competitions regulated and run through RIBA to find the Parliament and Assembly, and the GLC building be driven by property developers?"

Norman Foster revisited his old hero Buckminster Fuller and his geodesic dome to give his new building a bit of the Reichstag rejigging on top. Will Alsop plans to wrap Victoria House in a translucent skin. Now he has to get these radical refurbishments past English Heritage because the building is listed. Jocelyn Stevens, the opinionated head of English Heritage, memorably called Alsop's conversion of Hungerford Bridge to make a covered platform for pedestrians "a condom".

Nonie Niesewand

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