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From Bay Row to Barcelona Icon

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), May 2, 2003 | Go to article overview

From Bay Row to Barcelona Icon


Byline: Joanne Atkinson

THE architect involved in the long-running saga of the new National Assembly building has been chosen to transform one of Europe's cultural icons.

Richard Rogers, whose design was initially selected for the new home of the Assembly before spiralling costs led to his sacking, will turn a Barcelona bullring into a leisure complex.

The row over the handling of the Assembly debating chamber construction was heightened earlier this year when it was revealed that the ``preferred bidder'' for the second attempt at building the Assembly's new home was a Taylor Woodrow partnership involving Lord Rogers's firm. This will be voted on before the Assembly's summer recess.

The Labour peer has since said penny-pinching plagued the Assembly building project, originally costed at pounds 26.6m.

And two years after the original design was meant to be finished, all the people of Wales have got to show for more than pounds 8m spent is a hole in the ground in Cardiff Bay.

So should Finance Minister Edwina Hart and co have bitten the bullet first time around and gone with the Rogers design, despite the costs rising to pounds 47m, to gain a building with a world-class profile?

Or were they right to pull the plug - in what Assembly Permanent Secretary Sir Jon Shortridge has described as a ``correct and brave'' decision.

Malcolm Parry, architecture academic and broadcaster, said, ``RIBA [the Royal Institute of British Architects] has singled out Barcelona, and the mayor of the city, for being so terrific at nominating wonderful architects to create fantastic buildings for the city.

``Lord Rogers is worldclass, and we in Wales can be embarrassed over the Assembly building saga.

``The Mayor of Barcelona seems to be one of the greatest patrons of the arts, which is something they would never accuse us of being in Wales. One minute we are for it and the next minute we aren't.''

On whether the Assembly made the right decision in sacking Lord Rogers in July 2001, Mr Parry said, ``I think that in the case of the first Richard Rogers design, when costs started to spiral, nobody wanted to make the wrong decision, so they made a safe decision, which is not always the right decision.

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