Witney Corn Exchange design competition sparks outcry as Ian Ritchie resigns over conditions
The RIBA has complained to prime minister David Cameron that a design competition in his constituency was exploiting architects.
A letter was sent by RIBA president Angela Brady to Cameron and Oxfordshire District Council, following the resignation of shortlisted architect Ian Ritchie from an Ojeu competition to overhaul the Corn Exchange in Witney.
The design competition was advertised in March, seeking an architect or designer to revamp the grade II-listed building. More than 80 expressions of interest were received.
Shortlisted architects were then asked to submit three design concepts — one for a repair of the existing building, a remodel and a total rebuild — to RIBA stage C working to a budget of up to £1.5 million, as well as a 7,500- word report.
Brady complained that the council had not specified a clear brief and budget before commission, and suggested fees and expenses for architects should have been allocated.
Ritchie, who was shortlisted along with five other practices for the project and wrote to Cameron and his own MP Jim Fitzpatrick, said: “We do not think that the delivery expectations contained in the [invitation to tender] ITT are either fair or realistic.”
But other participating architects have blamed the project manager associated with the scheme — Oxfordshire-based Treloar Property and Construction Consultants — for giving wrong advice to Witney Town Council, which admitted that it had never handled a design competition of this size.
One practice said: “The wider issue [with PQQs] is that project managers are selling their services these days on their ability to get the design team to do a lot for nothing, while they take all the money.
“We told them what they were asking for is outrageous and that no architect would provide it without pay.”
Residents are now being consulted on two proposals by Foster Wilson and Levitt Bernstein for the Corn Exchange and a winner will be selected later this summer.
Claire Swan, deputy town clerk at Witney Town Council, said: “We’re trying to be as fair as possible and take everything into account.”
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