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.