Palestinian ties shake architect's $1.7bn project

Richard Rogers, one of Britain’s leading voices in architecture and design, is attempting to save his $1.7bn revamp of a New York convention centre after it emerged he had links to a pro-Palestinian protest group.

Enraging US politicians and Jewish organisations, the connection with the group springs from disclosures obtained by The Independent that claim Lord Rogers hosted a meeting of Palestinian lobbyists at his London HQ.

The group, said to be called Architects and Planners for Justice, reportedly made their visit in February to consider a boycott of Israel’s construction industry following the erection of the separation barrier built in the Occupied Territories.

The revelations have enraged the development agent behind Lord Rogers’ latest project, the Empire State Development Corporation, which this week called the architect to explain his role at the meeting, said to include 60 other British architects and planners.

The furore centres on the purpose of the New York centre, which was built as a tribute to Jacob K Javits, a firm supporter of Israel who was a senator for more than 20 years.

“It carries the name of someone whose legacy is contrary to such views,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, of the Conference of Major Jewish Organisations.

Lord Rogers, who designed Paris’s Pompidou Centre and London’s Millennium Dome, last week reportedly cut his ties with the Palestinian group, saying, “I have never backed a boycott.”

Speaking before the revelations, the chairman of the New York Convention Center Development Corp, Charles A. Gargano clearly supported the work of Lord Rogers.

He said: “The Javits Center will be a magnet for economic activity for decades to come. It deserves the very best and that’s exactly what we were presented with today.

“The Rogers/Fowle/Epstein presentation showed an unmatched understanding of the project objectives to create a ‘world-class,’ state-of-the-art, fully functional international convention centre.”


 

8th March 2006

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