Hon. Vice Presidents
coaches parking with engines idly awaiting their homeward bound passengers. The ambition was to deliver a much improved design which did not impinge on the sacrosanct sightline of King Henry’s Mound, in Richmond Park, to St Paul’s. Citing one of the pitfalls of competition, one very distinguished competitor permitted his design to stray 12 metres outside the site boundary: it was a very good scheme, but I was advised that, if I permitted its intention, other competitors could sue for their costs as I would have breached the competition rules! Sadly in the end another excellent design which became known as the jewel held in the rock, had to be abandoned as, notwithstanding very significant value-engineering and research, delivery significantly exceeded the permitted cost limitations. The property market had also moved significantly against such a scheme although, in due course, a similar profile but very different building was erected. I believe that this may have been one of the earlier structures to have used ‘rubber mountings’ to withstand vibrations from the underground line. Subsequently on an adjoining site we looked to provide a design for a new City Hall fronting Palace Street. This proved to be a great experience for me working with the then Richard Rogers and realising a very acute appreciation of special relationships, quite amazing for being populated at that time with rather ‘diddy little pedestrians’ which Lowrylike gave great life to the concept. It also enabled the assessors to learn how best to interact with a client. In my experience, he was the only person to take his chair from the presenting team being interviewed to join the assessor’s panel and conduct his colleagues responses to the questions posed. This enabled him to elicit some of the panel’s innermost design preferences in a most masterly fashion, rather like watching a skilful conductor drawing the best performance from his orchestra. Sadly that building was never built as the City Council had a change of heart. On a different theme, I was very privileged to find myself invited to chair the assessment panel for the selection of a master planner for Earls Court, when my colleagues at Capco found themselves ash-bound abroad. Very different styles confronted us, each striving to create an environment from 70 acres of land in
Cambridge University Land Society
Hammersmith. Some most imaginative schemes were presented but, as always, we had to focus on what might be deliverable and best appeal to the local planning officers and politicians for this very significant project. Sir Terry Farrell has repaid our confidence handsomely in defining his vision on the 4 villages created on the ribbon of Lost River Park, of which other competitors may have been less aware. A more recent challenge occurred at the Natural History Museum, where I had been a Trustee for 8 years, in which time I had been charged with the quite heavy involvement of the delivery of Darwin Centre Two for a design by CF Moller, the Danish architects, and encouraged by Lord Peter Palumbo. An aspect to consider when selecting any
design team is their understanding of our domestic building and planning regulations and ability to resolve some of our idiosyncratic ways! When Mr Jacques Attali selected a team to design premises for the Bank of European Reconstruction and came to deliver their new Head Quarters at Liverpool Street, he not only employed Berthet Pochy but ensured that a good domestic firm headed up by Ron Siddell was available to avoid potential problems of translation and this proved very beneficial to the end product. Similarly at One New Change, St Paul’s, before appointing Jean Nouvel, Land Securities spent considerable time reviewing his plans in Paris, Berlin and Dubai with a team of good executive architects facilitating the translation needed. Cheapside saw a transformation that enabled it to benefit from some of the 3 million visitors a year to St Paul’s and the name means that the street is a contradiction in terms for flourishing retailers paying significant rents. My final involvement has been the
Natural History Museum again, where it has become essential to address the need to adapt the grounds to the ever increasing demands of the public for access. Attendance during my 10 years has jumped from under 2 million per annum to over 5 million and this demands a very much more sophisticated use of the outside space. With such a popular venue, the local residents also take a very keen interest and it has been essential to engage with them throughout the competition process - to the extent that they supported the designs of the recent application which has now been approved and for which the Museum is seeking funding. In this instance, we were fortunate to have selected the services of Malcolm Reading, who has proved to be the most excellent facilitator, where the circumstances are sensitive. This was exceptionally well demonstrated when St Martinin-the-Fields came to look for a design solution for the renewal of the Burial Vaults then currently housing the Social Care unit or The Connection. The scheme devised by Sir Eric Parry brilliantly respected the Grade 1 listed church and has transformed the facilities of the charity and even secured the support of English heritage for the demolition of the listed Burial Vaults which had served as a charnel house. The design took about a decade to implement and £37million to deliver. I hope that, from the foregoing examples, readers will appreciate that, by conducting the design process and engaging with various members of the community, their participation can be very helpful in resolving potential conflicts. Over the years, competition procedures have changed. The RIBA no longer has a monopoly on supporting clients interested in running a competition. There is a more international feel to competitions now, with younger talent and collaborations featuring amongst shortlists. Others may have strong views on the disadvantages of competitions because a lot of time can be expended by designers who may not have the benefit of interaction with the client as to the client’s personal design expectations. However, with the right Facilitator, I believe such problems can be surmounted. Do not expect the process to be either cheap or necessarily quick, but the value of a well organised competition can pay significant dividends in delivering the right solution.