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Norman Foster resigns from Pushkin Museum expansion

After Moscow’s chief architect issues a public ultimatum, the British designer reveals he left the project more than two months ago

Norman Foster, left, and his designs for the Pushkin expansion

Norman Foster’s firm has resigned from a stalled Rbn22bn ($670m) expansion of Moscow’s State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, The Art Newspaper has learned. The architect revealed the split after Moscow’s chief architect Sergei Kuznetsov issued an ultimatum, demanding that Foster take a more active role in the project and prove his commitment by coming to the Russian capital within a month.

“If Foster, for one reason or another, refuses to participate further in the work, then, most likely, a competition will be held to choose another team, possibly of Western architects,” says Kuznetsov, according to the Itar-Tass news agency.

However, Foster + Partners says that it had already left the project more than two months ago. “Foster + Partners formally resigned from the Pushkin Museum project and stipulated that their name could not be used in conjunction with the project, as confirmed in a letter from Lord Foster to the director of the museum on 5 June 2013,” the firm said in a statement sent to The Art Newspaper. “Foster + Partners took this action because the museum, for the last three years, has not involved us in the development of the project, which was being carried out by others. This was despite numerous attempts by the practice to continue working with the museum.”

Kuznetsov told reporters after a meeting of Moscow’s architectural board that he has nothing against Foster’s design, just his work methods. “It’s not the candidacy of Norman Foster that raises any questions,” he said. “The only problem is that either Norman Foster must himself work on the project and defend it face-to-face, personally—this is a very important question in architecture—or he must turn down this project.”

Irina Antonova, 91, who ran the museum for more than 50 years but was pushed out as director in July, was an effusive admirer of Foster. She commissioned a design from him in 2006 to bring to life her vision of a “museum town” around the main building, which is just blocks from the Kremlin and opposite the landmark Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

The proposed expansion, developed with the local architectural firm Mosproject-5, was confirmed in 2009, but became mired in disputes with officials and preservationists and concern grew that it would not be completed on schedule for 2018.

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