Award-winning architect Ian Ritchie, designer of the proposed Crystal Palace 20-screen multiplex/leisure centre, has washed his hands of the project – and is in a spat with Bromley Council, disclosing that the project’s quality is in question.

Ritchie’s replacement as “delivery architect” by Renton Howard Wood Levin (RHWL), which is intended to speed matters so that construction can begin early next year, had remained unpublicised by both Bromley and multiplex developers London & Regional Properties Ltd. The Crystal Palace Campaign first detected the change on final detail drawings put on display by Bromley in mid-July, but full details of the dispute have now emerged in the latest issue of The Architects’ Journal. “London & Regional Properties, showing all the integrity for which the development world is famous seems intent on dumbing down the project … when Ritchie refused to compromise on standards”, the Journal’s columnist scornfully comments.

Stuart Macmillan, Bromley’s chief planner, told the Journal “Ritchie is a very good architect on the design but he didn’t have the resources to get the details done … I didn’t get the impression that he wanted to do the details. He was concerned, though, that his scheme might be changed”.

In a counterblast letter to the Journal, Ian Ritchie states that he was “deeply disturbed” by Macmillan’s remarks and confirms changes were being imposed. Ritchie maintains that his firm had “detailed and specified the entire external envelope”, and that these elements of the multiplex had been tendered. However, in September 1999 all design work was ordered halted until this April when he had a meeting with L&RP’s new project director, Geoff Springer.

Ritchie goes on to imply that alterations cheapening his design were on the agenda. “New budget, programme and procurement conditions were imposed which we could not accept, considering the status, sensitivity and high quality that the programme demands”. His firm withdrew and has since transferred all information and documentation to RHWL.

Major changes to Ritchie’s designs are apparent in RHWL’s drawings. They include the access ramps, overuse of enmeshed granite instead of steel, and rooftop details. All these final details, known as “Reserved Matters”, are the subject of a powerful and detailed written challenge by the Crystal Palace Campaign (see website details below), and are up for final approval by Bromley’s Development Control Committee on Tuesday, October 3.

The multiplex project is subject to continuing legal challenges by CPC, and others. Ian Ritchie’s replacement was not mentioned to Mr Justice Jackson by Bromley or the developers in the judicial review case brought by single mother Diane Barker. Nor was it disclosed to Mayor Ken Livingstone’s environment secretary Darren Johnson, GLA, when he met them to make known the mayor’s determination to do all in his power to halt the multiplex.

CPC Chairman Philip Kolvin commented: “Bromley always boasted of commissioning one of the leading contemporary architects for what they are pleased to call ‘the Crystal Palace of the 21st Century’–- and Ritchie’s design was supported by English Heritage and the Royal Fine Art Commission, among others. Yet now Bromley have quietly acquiesced in his replacement by a firm willing to speed the job through to a specification Ian Ritchie finds unacceptable. What do these bodies think now? It is past time that this unwanted project was stopped and a public inquiry started.

“Bromley’s chief planner may be critical now, but it was in 1996 that Bromley Council, along with L&RP and English Heritage appointed Ian Ritchie. Ritchie now becomes the second award-winning architect to drop out of the multiplex project. The first, Chapman Taylor, was the winner of Bromley’s international design competition, yet the firm failed to secure the contract following criticism from English Heritage and others.”

Note to Editors: The Crystal Palace Campaign is also leading the challenge to L&RP’s application for 14 liquor licences in the proposed multiplex at Bromley Magistrates Court, London Rd Bromley, BR1 1RA at 10am on November 27 and November 28.

Architects’ Journal (article) August 17-24
Architects’ Journal (Letter from Ian Ritchie, and back page Astragal column) September 7

Acting Press Officer: Fred Emery 020 8761 0076 Mobile: 0794 117 2023
Correspondence to: Hon Secretary, 33 HogarthCourt, Fountain Drive,
London SE19 1UY Telephone/fax: 020 8670 8486 Website: www.crystal.dircon.co.uk

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14 September 2000 Last updated 14 September 2000