Cuts could result in 'plasterboard Olympics'

Andrew Culf, sports correspondent
Friday December 1, 2006
The Guardian

One of Britain’s leading architects has warned that budget cuts could turn the London 2012 Olympics into the “tarmac and plasterboard” games. Jack Pringle, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, said Olympic organisers risked sacrificing design excellence by the way that contracts are being awarded.

Mr Pringle’s remarks echo concerns from the award-winning architect Richard Rogers, who has threatened to boycott the Olympics over fears about design quality.

They are worried the Olympic Delivery Authority is awarding contracts on a “design and build” basis, where the architect’s input comes only after a contractor has been appointed. Mr Pringle said: “It is important that the process is not contractor-led, the crude old design and build … let us not sacrifice games excellence on the altar of the crudest form of reliable delivery.”

The £300m-plus contract to build the main Olympic stadium has already been awarded to the Team McAlpine consortium, which was behind Arsenal’s new Emirates Stadium. It includes architects HOK Sports, involved in designing many of Britain’s major sporting venues, including Wembley and the new stand at Ascot.

Mr Pringle said: “The contract was a parody of one’s worst fears. HOK are a marvellous architect, the Emirates Stadium is fantastic, the Sydney Olympics stadium is fantastic, and McAlpine are one of the most accomplished contractors. But is this a one-horse race?”

The president of Riba said he was dismayed that the contract for the international media centre had also been let on a design and build basis. He had received calls from architects working on transport projects who feared that cuts to budgets and specifications would lead to it being the “tarmac and plasterboard” games.

He called for more transparency from the ODA. “Riba does not want to stand outside the tent criticising, but that is our role at the moment … designers and architects must be chosen on their merits and the ability to deliver their visions. The architects [for the games] cannot just be the same old usual suspects and the contractors’ favourite experts.”

Speaking at Riba’s London 2012 Olympic legacy dinner, he called for a smart procurement system to “unleash the talents of architects” and said Riba’s proven system of design competitions should be used.

Sir Roy McNulty, acting chairman of the ODA, said: “There are a huge range of large, medium and small projects that need to be addressed. I do envisage many of them as design competitions.” The spectacular plans unveiled this week by Zaha Hadid for the aquatics centre - complete with a wave-shaped roof - emerged from a competition, as will the Olympic velodrome designs.,,1961652,00.html