SO Sir Norman Foster has finally come out in support of fellow architect Zaha Hadid in the Cardiff Bay opera house scandal, having not entirely complied with the organisers’ request to resubmit for a job he lost to Hadid in fair competition.
The Cardiff Bay saga throws up many points about integrity, professionalism and the nature of competitions, all of which have been covered extensively elsewhere. But it also begs the question of what happens to bright sparks with outstanding talent, but without the track record to win client confidence.
Hadid has had patrons, notably Vitra boss Rolf Fehlbaum for whom she designed her first building – the fire station at the Swiss furniture firm’s factory. And she is fted by the media. But the rough handling she’s had over Cardiff suggests the establishment is not yet ready to risk a newish name on a major project. The joke is it’s not that long since Sir Norman was himself an enfant terrible to the property world, along with Sir Richard Rogers, Will Alsop, Nick Grimshaw and all those other fine architectural talents who have won Britain a place in the world arena.
Significantly, the Cardiff row continues in the week a showcase opens in London devoted to another of architecture’s unsung heroes, Future Systems. Anyone with an eye for genuine innovation, unswerving commitment and sheer elegance will recognise in the work of Jan Kaplicky and Amanda Levete – on view at Concord Lighting’s showroom – exactly what it takes to make design great. Sadly though, while the two feature in many an international contest, their stunning concepts rarely become real.
What does it take for clients to give such designers a break? And where is the justice in a system that plunders the ideas of the likes of Hadid and Future Systems without giving them the chance to follow through?
Talking of injustice, can London Underground really be applying to the Millennium Commission for funds to give the disabled access to the Jubilee Line? Surely this is a basic right to be paid for through normal channels.