Is this lost winner of U2 design prize?
THE original winner of a competition to design U2â€™s new studio in Dublinâ€™s docklands may have been found. A model by a London firm of architects bears a remarkable similarity to the entry first selected by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, according to sources close to the jury.
The British firm that designed the plan, 3W, is to ask the DDDA why it was not included in an audit of entrants carried out by the accountants Price Waterhouse Coopers after organisers of the competition couldnâ€™t work out the identity of the winning entry. The design was later disqualified.
The competition was held to find a design for the new building, which will house a studio for U2.
Architects say 3Wâ€™s entry bears a striking resemblance to how jury members described the design that was originally selected. This was a simple and distinctive structure, a rectangular building with an elegant tower alongside.
Andrew Wells, who helped design the 3W entry, said: â€œWhy have we heard absolutely nothing from the DDDA or Price Waterhouse? We paid our â‚¬100 entry fee and that was the last we heard.
â€œThe first we heard of any inquiry into what had happened to entries is when we were contacted about displaying our design on the Irish-architecture.com internet site this week.
â€œIf there was an audit and all valid entries were contacted, why werenâ€™t we?â€ A team of three architects from 3W spent 10 weeks on their design. Arup, the creators of the Spire on Oâ€™Connell Street, worked in conjunction with the London architectural firm on engineering aspects. Wells said: â€œIt was a very tight brief and we went through it a number of times to make sure we fulfilled the requirements.â€
Its entry was delivered by courier to the DDDA at 8.30am on February 28 after being flown from London. Wells received an e-mail from the DDDA in May stating that there was a delay in the judging process due to the quantity of entries. This was the last correspondence 3W had from the organisers.
The competition attracted over 540 valid entries, the interest fuelled by the involvement of U2. The judges included Dr Arthur Gibney, president of the Royal Hibernian Academy; Jim Barrett, the Dublin city architect; Peter Coyne, chairman of the DDDA; and U2â€™s bass player Adam Clayton.
The envelope attached to the initial winning design stated it was from an architecture practice based in central Europe. However, the design displayed a remarkable knowledge of Dublin and of the docklandsâ€™ topography. It seemed more likely to be an entry from Ireland or Britain.
The DDDA commissioned Price Waterhouse Coopers to audit the entrants in July. The consultants contacted more than 500 entrants by e-mail, asking them to forward a copy of the one-page description that accompanied their entries. The idea was to match the descriptions to the entries. Even this unprecedented measure failed to reveal who had designed the first winner. 3W says it did not receive an e-mail.
Discrepancies were found in several entries. After obtaining legal advice the DDDA decided to disqualify the first â€œwinningâ€ design. It has since refused to reveal details of the Price Waterhouse Coopers audit.
With auditors and legal advisers now hovering around the selection process, the jury insisted on meeting one further time. This happened on August 5 and again they went through the 30 or so entries on the original short list.
On August 5, the second winner was selected. This was an impressive design by the Dublin-based architectural firm Burdon Dunne Architects (BDA) and Craig Henry Architects. A twisting glass tower, it had always been regarded as a strong contender.
Last week Paul Clerkin, the director of Irish-architecture.com sent out a request to more than 28,000 architectural firms worldwide asking if they had entered the U2 competition. 3W was one of the firms that responded.
Clerkin said: â€œItâ€™s very unfortunate the way this competition has been screwed up. Architectural competitions are held somewhere in the world every week and to be unable to locate the original winner is farcical. It is now a lose-lose situation. One firm lost a commission, and the winning firm will always know that they were really second.â€
A DDDA spokesman said: â€œThere was only ever one winner of the competition, the design by Burdon Dunne Architects/Craig Henry. If this entry (from 3W) has not been contacted by Price Waterhouse Coopers, the correct procedure is to contact the authority directly to clarify the issue.â€
Price Waterhouse Coopers was unavailable for comment this weekend.
The competition has been riddled with controversy. At one point entrants received e-mails from the DDDA which included a list of other entrants, thus compromising the rules of anonymity.There was also concern when members of U2 were seen visiting the studios of Frank Gehry, a renowned American architect. Gehry was known to have entered the docklandsâ€™ competition and some rivals were unhappy that he appeared to be in contact with the band. Gehryâ€™s design was not shortlisted.
The juryâ€™s final report was just 106 words long. It said the judges had examined â€œall qualified submissionsâ€ and described the winner as â€œan outstanding initial concept for an architectural statement on this critically located siteâ€.