RHWL replaces Ritchie on Crystal Palace multiplex
The Architects Journal - 17 August 2000
Ian Ritchie Architects has been replaced by RWHL on the troubled £60 rnillion Crystal Palace Park leisure scheme. Developer London and Regional Properties has appointed RHWL 'delivery architect' in an attempt to speed through final designs and start work on site early next year. The scheme, which will include a mulliplex with up to 20 screens alongside othcr leisure uses, has so far been delayed by legal challenges and widespread local opposition.
The developer has sworn Ian Ritchie to silence about why he was replaced, but planners believe that his practice did not have enough staff to complete the details of the scheme in time. The practice, which employs about 25 architects, is also designing a £600 million shopping centre with Benoy at White City in west London.
'Ritchie is a very good architect on the design but he didn't have the resourcesr to get the details done,' said London Borough of Bromley chief planner Stuart Macmillan. 'I didn't get the impression that he wanted to do the details. He was concerned, though that his scheme might be changed.'
This looks likely to happen on the level of detailing and RWHL has already submitted drawings to planners which do not tally with Ritchie's original design. In one instance a metalwork detail around the rooftop car park has been switched from mesh to sheeting, according to planners.
However, the client insisted that major changes would not occur. 'The delivery architect is now RWHL, using the Ritchie plans,' said L&R managing director Geoff Springer. He refused to comment on why Ian Ritchie Architects is not completing the job, which it won in 1996. The scheme was awarded planning permission in 1998 although a number of details were left outstanding.
It is scarcely surprising that Ian Ritchie has taken exception to the attitude of Bromley Council over his glass pavilion design at Crystal Palace (which already has planning permission). Bromley, it seems, will allow any alteration to the scherne - provided it does not affect the council's financial take. Ritchie fought and won a High Court battle over whether of not his architecture was in the spirit of Joseph Paxton's original, and bore the brunt of a vicious campaign by local opponents who are worried that the park will be used by the pubiic at large rather than them and their dogs. The client, Lcndon & Regional Properties, showing all the integrity for which the development world is famous, seems intent on dumbing down the project, not least by bringing in new architects and contractors when Ritchie refused to compromise on standards and the project went design-and-build. I imagine that the opponents of the scheme (and English Heritage) will be looking dosely to see if any design changes jeopardise the existing planning consent.
We couldn't accept new Crystal Palace terms
I was deeply disturbed by the quotes attributed to the London Borough of Bromley chief planner Stuart MactrAllan (AJ 17/24.08.00).
Ian Ritchie Architects always assumes its responsibilities towards a client and the projoct in a very thorough and professional manner. This is especially true when we have prepared a coherent design, obtained planning and the vast majority of the reserved matters permissions, argued for the aesthetic credibility of the design in public meetings and subbmitted a detailed design justification in the form of an affidavit in connection with legal hearings.
We had detailed and specified the entire external envelope of the building of glass and stainless steel, and these significant elements of the building had been tendered and tenders returned. We, and to our knowledge, all of the design consultants involved were asked, to stop work in September 1999. We received no further instructions from our client.
In April this year we met Mr Springer the now project director at London & Regional Properties, New budget, programme and procurement canditions were imposed which we could not accept considering the status, sensitivity and high quality that the project demands. We reluctantly declined to accept further instructions from L&R Properties.
When we were informed that RHWL were the new architects, at the request of the client, we transferred all the information and copies of documentation in he formats requested.
Ian Ritchie, IanRitchie Architects
last updated 21/09/00