Foreign Office Architects leaves over fears that design of Olympic park has been dumbed down

Foreign Office Architects (FOA), the creative leader of the group designing the Olympic park, has quit the masterplanning team.

The firm walked out on the consortium last week over what are understood to be fears that the design quality of the plan had been dumbed down.

A source close to the Olympic park scheme said FOA had been frustrated by the focus on budget rather than design. The source said: “They came up with great ideas that have subsequently been pared down.”

An FOA spokesperson said: “FOA has chosen to focus on competitions for specific Olympic projects, where it will be best placed to deliver value to the design of the Games and its legacy.”

The firm is still on the shortlist to design the Olympic velopark.

FOA is widely acknowledged as the creative wing of the multidisciplinary team designing the park, which also includes EDAW, Buro Happold, Allies and Morrison and HOK Sport.

Sources close to the team told Building there had been friction between FOA and the other firms for a while. A source said: “They might have stayed on if there weren’t tensions in the team. There seemed to be a different set of priorities between them all.”

It is understood that there are at least six months of work left to do on the masterplan, which is now in the detailed design phase.

A spokesperson for the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) said: “FOA helped us produce the masterplan, which is our vision and route map to 2012 and we thank them for all their hard work and help to date.”

The news of FOA’s dramatic departure will be a further blow to the ODA, which has been accused of skimping on design. Richard Rogers, the London mayor’s architectural adviser, has refused to enter any competitions for Olympic projects.

Building can also reveal that HOK Sport’s proposals for the main stadium went before the Olympic design review panel at the beginning of the month. It is understood that the designs have been significantly scaled back.

In February, the Olympic board reiterated that its priority was to deliver an Olympic stadium on time and to budget.

FOA’s full statement

FOA are stepping down from the EDAW Consortium in charge of the design of the London Olympic Park

Since winning the competition to design the Olympic and non-Olympic masterplan for the Lower Lea Valley as part of a design consortium (including EDAW, Allies & Morrison, HOK & Buro Happold) in Sept. 2003, FOA has worked with the London Development Agency (LDA) to bring forward its long-term vision for this part of East London.

Since the successful work on the Games bid, FOA has continued to collaborate with the original consortium members and Arup/ Atkins on the Olympic Park and Infrastructure Commission for the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA). This work culminated in the submission of the Olympic, Paralympic and Transformation planning application in January 07 and the recently completed Concept Design Report in May.

With the ODA now focusing on delivery of the various elements and venues of the Games, FOA has chosen to focus on competitions for specific projects, where it will be best placed to delivery value and benefits to the design of the London 2012 Games and legacy.

“The collaboration with the LDA and ODA is an exciting opportunity to shape not just the Games but the face of East London in the coming decades,” says Farshid Moussavi, Partner of FOA. "The park concept designs that have formed the backbone of the London Games bid create a park and masterplan in which landscape, architectural and urban concerns merge with mechanisms that create added value. The architecture, in this sense, goes beyond form and generates symbiotic qualities, and we look forward to exploring this further in venues and buildings in and around the Olympic Park”.