Lessons to be learnt from the Cardiff fiasco

News that Sir Norman Foster has decided not to re-enter the fray over Cardiff Bay’s new opera house couldn’t be more welcome to the architecture profession. It’s good to know that competition-winning architect Zaha Hadid

hasn’t been totally dumped by her own kind – Italian architect Manfredi Nicoletti’s decision to battle on notwithstanding.

Would that the competition dignatories had had greater confidence in the assessors’ choice and handled the affair with some grace.

Architects have long bemoaned a competition system that amounts to little more than what we in design would term a free pitch. Even when there’s money at stake, the prize-money has little bearing on the amount of work involved in preparing a submission.

Consequently, many youngish practices are now forsaking competitions – the traditional way for architects to win work and fame – on the grounds they can’t afford them. Nor can they afford the implied insult to their professionalism that such meagre rewards carry with them. No doubt the Cardiff debacle will only strengthen their resolve.

The whole thing has a familiar ring to it, though we designers can only stand on the sidelines and watch as the Cardiff saga unfolds. But we should at least voice our support of Hadid and Foster and the integrity they have shown.

By bringing the whole affair to the national media’s attention, they are unwittingly doing their bit for design. If press coverage causes clients involved in architectural competitions to think twice about their methods as a result, design clients too might be persuaded to consider the fairness of their dealings with their creative suppliers.

Ted Bright

Interior designer


London SW15

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