THE architect Richard Rogers who designed the Senedd building and London's Millennium Dome has died aged 88.

Lord Rogers, who also designed the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Lloyd’s of London building, “passed away quietly” on Saturday evening, Freud Communications’ Matthew Freud told the PA news agency.

He was also praised for his design of a factory outside Newport, the Inmos silcon-chip factory, which was completed in 1982.

The factory was required to be built to a tight timescale and Rogers combined pre-fabricated parts with his signature internal column free design which, similar to Senedd, leaves many of a building's services open to view.

Known as 'inside out' buildings the factory near Newport has nine blue steel towers, forming a 106 meter long corridor with the pre-fabcriated cubes craned in beneath them.

Architectural critic and writer Reyner Banham referred to the Inmos Microprocessor Factory as "the first really challenging building of the 1980s".

Lord Rogers was born in 1933 to an Anglo-Italian family in Florence, Italy and at a young age moved to England, where he later trained at the Architectural Association School of Architure in London before graduating with a master’s from Yale.

His designs, which also include Strasbourg’s European Court of Human Rights, won critical acclaim with the Royal Gold Medal and the Pritzker Prize.

 

The National Wales: Former first minister Rhodri Morgan, right, looks at a model of the Rogers' design for the SeneddFormer first minister Rhodri Morgan, right, looks at a model of the Rogers' design for the Senedd

 

But Rogers will be best remembered in Wales for the Senedd though his contribution to the architecture of Cardiff Bay wasn't without controversy however.

The Welsh Government at one point even sacked the famed architect from the project before having to go back and re-hire his partnership as building work hadn't advanced for two years.

The decision to locate the Senedd on its site in Cardiff Bay was taken by then secretary of state for Wales Ron Davies in April 1998 with the original intention, at the 1997 referendum, that the new National Assembly for Wales should be housed at Cardiff's City Hall.

When that site fell through towns and cities across Wales were invited to put themselves forward as the location for the new Assembly but the Welsh Office eventually backed a new site in Cardiff Bay.

READ MORE: Cabinet papers: Swansea first choice for Welsh Assembly

Following the announcement of the location, the land was acquired on a 150 year lease for a nominal fee of just £1. An international competition to design the building was won by Sir Richard Rogers.

The National Wales: Lord Richard Rogers receives the Freedom of the City at Guildhall Art Gallery, in recognition of his contribution to architecture and urbanism Picture: PALord Richard Rogers receives the Freedom of the City at Guildhall Art Gallery, in recognition of his contribution to architecture and urbanism Picture: PA

Construction, which was eventually delievered in two phases through two contractors, was beset by problems and concerns over rising costs.

Welsh Government finance minister Edwina Hart at one stage even sacked Rogers from the project but had to rehire his partnership, in 2003, after it was said the government had been left with a "hole in the ground" for two years.

The building eventually opened in 2006, having supposed to have been operational from 2003.

Rogers had said former first minister Rhodri Morgan was right to pause the project which followed significant cost over runs to the Scottish Parliament building.

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The architect said he feared a row over costs could have undermined the new institution which had only been established by a narrow margin in the '97 referendum.

The Welsh Government had at one point even withheld fees and when Hart tried to claim £6.9m in damages the case was dismissed with the consensus that Cardiff Bay politicians had seriously underestimated the cost and complexity of delivering the sort of building they had wanted as a showpiece for modern Welsh democracy.

The Senedd was eventually completed for £69m which although substanially less than the £414m cost of the Scottish Parliament building was way over the original budget of £12m.

The Guardian's then architecture correspondent, Jonathan Glancey wrote, as the Senedd neared completition in 2005, "the Welsh Assembly wanted a distinctive seat of government, quite rightly - but on the cheap. Its original budget would never have stretched to a high quality design realised in a mixture of modern global and traditional Welsh materials."

Glancey, who praised the way the Senedd steps rise out of Cardiff Bay inviting people into the "transparent" buiding in typical Rogers style under a single roof, suggested the architect and his partnership were underappreciated by their clients.

He wrote: "The Welsh Assembly had been in good and empathetic hands from the beginning, and especially so when RRP were put back on to the case. Perhaps, though, this was a case of an inexperienced client not quite understanding what it might take either emotionally or financially to shape a building that would speak for Welsh independence and Welsh democracy across the world for many generations to come.

"Much of the architecture of Cardiff Bay is fairly routine stuff; the National Assembly is something else altogether, a building that connects us back to our dream of fifth-century Athens and forward to a Wales that really wants to make it."

The Senedd's Twitter account has posted an initial sketch of the building's design and said: "We are saddened to hear of the death of Richard Rogers, architect of the Senedd building. Our thoughts are with his friends and family. We thank Lord Rogers for his vision of our open and transparent parliamentary building."

 

The jury when awarding Rogers the Pritzker in 2017 praised him for having “revolutionised museums, transforming what had once been elite monuments into popular places of social and cultural exchange, woven into the heart of the city”.

He received the Freedom of the City of London at Guildhall Art Gallery in 2014 in recognition of his contribution to architecture and urbanism.

Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy early on Sunday paid tribute to Lord Rogers, whose firm designed the channel’s 124 Horseferry Road headquarters, as someone “whose wonderful buildings are testament to an amazing, inventive, charismatic man”.

The New York Times reported Lord Rogers is survived by his wife Lady Ruth – the co-founder of London’s River Cafe restaurant – sons Ab, Ben, Roo and Zad, his brother Peter and 13 grandchildren.

Additional reporting: PA

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