Richard Rogers Partnership severs links with Eastside regeneration after quitting City Park Gate scheme
The regeneration of Birmingham has been dealt a blow by Richard Rogers Partnership's decision to abandon its work on the City Park Gate scheme and to sever its links with the city.
Rogers' decision was prompted by three years of political wrangling at Birmingham council, which culminated in the scrapping of his £180m Centenary Library on the City Park Gate site.
Richard Rogers Partnership's exit could adversely affect the £6bn Masshouse regeneration project in the Eastside district of the city centre. A report by Gardiner & Theobald last July concluded that RRP would help the council secure government and external funding, as it would deliver an iconic building of international importance.
RRP claims that it no longer has the manpower to undertake a new masterplan for the 1.9 ha site. As a result, architect Make was appointed last week by clients Countryside Properties and Quintain Estates to take this forward.
In a letter to Countryside Properties, Andrew Morris, a director at RRP, outlined the architect's position. He said: "In light of the fact that you wish to undertake a wholesale review of the current scheme, rather than simply amending the current concept, we feel that it would be better for us to withdraw from the project.
"We have previously explained that our workload is such that it would be difficult to offer a team of sufficient seniority to carry out the work within the timeframe you have indicated."
A spokesperson for RRP added: "The Park Gate scheme was based around the library and the designs reflected that. There was a sense of ensemble in the street layout and massing.
With the loss of the library, the scheme as it stands is no longer relevant.
"Countryside is now planning a revision to the original scheme. We feel it would be more appropriate for another practice to take it forward."
Rogers has been caught in the middle of a political battle in Birmingham over the future of the city's Central Library. His firm proposed a £180m one-site option in 2002, but it is thought that Conservative council leader Mike Whitby regarded Rogers' scheme as too expensive.
The council, which is controlled by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, voted in favour of the split site on Monday. This will create a lending library costing £105m in the city centre at Centenary Square and an archive and history centre at Millennium Point in Eastside.
Rogers' scheme is still backed by the Labour councillors, and may be revived if they regain control of the city.
Last week, the council unveiled three designs for the Centenary Square library, including one by Make. Ken Shuttleworth has confirmed that he has not been asked to draw up designs for the second library in Eastside.