The European Commission is investigating alleged irregularities in the international competition to masterplan the European Parliament Quarter in Brussels.
The investigation follows a complaint that the jury for the £60m contest, which was won last year by Aukett Europe and its Belgian associate Art & Build, broke European Union procurement rules.
Jonathan Todd, spokesman for the European Commission on internal market and taxation, said: “We currently have an infringement case pending against the Belgian authorities following a complaint from a Belgian architect.”
He continued: “One of the problems was the composition of the jury and the way it voted for the winner. A member of the jury was linked with one of the bidders in another project. The jury has to be neutral; there cannot be any links between the jury and any of the bidders – even if it was on a different project.”
Art & Build partner Isidore Zielonka admitted that the company had previously worked with one of the jurors. He said: “This is normal. Everybody knows everybody. It is fair to say that of the architects [on the jury], three or four of them knew two or three of the competitors.”
Zielonka dismissed the investigation saying: “Nobody believes anything will happen.”
Todd said the commission would decide what, if any, action to take at the end of the inquiry. If any wrongdoing is proved, architects that lost out could seek compensation in the Belgian courts.
Aukett Europe, then called Aukett Associates, and Art & Build won the contest in January 1999. It beat 125 other practices to masterplan the 64 ha between major EU buildings in the centre of Brussels.
A spokesperson for Aukett Europe said: “The investigation … had no effect on our appointment. Our entry was chosen based on the merits of the design, which was felt to be the most appropriate.”
The 15-strong jury was made up of five members of the Brussels regional authority, which organised the competition, and 10 architects. The three highest-placed architects in the contest were all Belgian.
It is understood that the commission is writing to ask the Belgian authorities to respond to four allegations: that rejected bidders were notified too late, that evaluation criteria were not respected, that rules over the anonymity of bidders were not respected and that there were links between one of the bidders and a member of the jury.
The news follows Building’s revelation that Richard Rogers Partnership was considering withdrawing from international competitions because of jury bias.
Richard Rogers Partnership has been appointed to design a regeneration masterplan for the Bankside Triangle area around Tate Modern. The plan is to develop a mixed scheme of small businesses and offices for creative industries.