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RIBA backs down in bridge competition row

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) performed a U-turn this week by deciding to allow submissions for a bridge competition from engineer-led teams after originally excluding them.

Changes on the RIBA website go so far as to suggest that teams need not include architects at all.

The competition was launched at the beginning of the month and the original brief for the design of a new bridge crossing over the River Douglas in Preston asked for submission for architect-led teams (News last week).

This frustrated bridge engineers who had believed that progress was being made to set up a comprehensive bridge design competition.

However, following last week’s exposé in NCE, the briefing note has been changed on the RIBA competition website to include engineer led teams.

Response from RIBA towards the end of last week indicated that it would consider engineer-led teams if an architect was involved with the design.

"We are certainly not discouraging qualified professionals from entering the competition but it is felt that the architect is a vital member of the team hence the suggestion that the team is architect-led," said a RIBA competitions officer last week.

"We would definitely not preclude an engineer-led team from entering the competition provided that there was a registered architect on board."

As well as now including engineers, RIBA has removed from its website the stipulation that architects must sit on design teams.

The new brief now simply states that the competition is open to multidisciplinary design teams, classed as: "whoever it takes to create the proposals, be it engineer, architect or landscape gardener", said a RIBA spokesman.

"We will not have a token architect in our team, as it demeans both them and us," said Expedition Engineering director Chris Wise.

"To us, this is important as a matter of principle, as we believe that the best engineering talent is perfectly capable of designing a wonderful bridge and should be given the opportunity regardless of narrow institutional confines."

Further progress can be seen with the inclusion on the judging panel of a principal local authority bridge engineer and retired engineer Roger Buckby FICE, former Halcrow director for bridges.

Also, buildability is now the one of the three main criteria for the design of the bridge

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