Embassy's Just Pie in the Sky

Article excerpt

AS I revealed in November, no UK architects were invited to bid for the new [pounds sterling]450 million American Embassy, to be built in Vauxhall. So, not surprisingly, none have been shortlisted - although some of the chosen nine firms are well known in London.

Kohn Pedersen Fox Architects (KPF) and Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) have built extensively in the City.

KPF designed Gerald Ronson's controversial Heron Tower, which may be built in spite of the credit crunch; the Helter Skelter in Farringdon Street, which may not, and the Victoria interchange, recently re-submitted to Westminster Council.

But they were also recently sacked from the Smithfield Market project

in favour of local man John McAslan who is more sympathetic to the area's historic architecture.

SOM have permission for a 45-storey twisting tower of private flats on the former site of the London Arena in Docklands, and are also the designers of what will be the world's tallest building, the 800-metre Burj Dubai.

Lord Rogers, who was of course not invited to bid, was cleverly kept happy with an appointment to the panel of judges, which comprised British and American architects, diplomats and academics. This put him in pole position for the next stage in the competition, which may see the shortlisted practices recruit British partners to complete their design teams.

MICK Imlah died yesterday, and sadly, did not win what would have been his crowning achievement, the T.S. Eliot Prize, for his final collection, The Last Leader. Instead the award went to Jen Hadfield. Culture Secretary Andy Burnham confessed that his reading of Tony Harrison's poetry changed his life as a student and showed poetry could have a Northern voice. …