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Richard Rogers boycott threat

Richard Rogers, one of Britain's most distinguished architects and head of the Mayor of London's urbanism and architecture unit, has threatened to boycott the London 2012 Olympics in protest at the ways in which building contracts are being awarded. And rightly so.

Lord Rogers is against "design and build" because it means that the contractor is the party chosen to shape a future building rather than the architect. This is the reverse of the conventional arrangement whereby the contractor bids to build a winning design by an architect. "Design and build" is now popular in Britain because it places architects (annoying arty types, we like to think, with no understanding of budgets) at the service of contractors (hard-nosed, no-nonsense, money-savvy types).

The result is nearly always, despite what David Higgins, chief executive of the ODA says, second-rate architecture. A little meagre. A little tinny. And about as Olympian as a garden shed.

The unfortunate thing is that the 2012 Olympics have been conflated with an over-ambitious plan to "regenerate" vast tracts of east London and Essex. Instead of concentrating on commissioning superb Olympic buildings from inspired architects and finding them the best contractors to work with, the ODA is caught up in having to act as a developer for future London. By trying to do two jobs at once, and on the cheap, London is in danger of constructing second-rate buildings for 2012 and beyond, while facing an astronomic bill.

From: Running on empty, Jonathan Glancey, Guardian, 9 11 06

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