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Foster abandons Moscow museum project

News: Foster + Partners has announced its resignation from a major expansion and modernisation of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, following a row about the firm's involvement in the project.

Foster + Partners claims that the museum has failed to involve the firm in the project, while Moscow's chief architect says the problem is that Norman Foster wasn't contributing to the design personally.

A statement released this week by Foster + Partners reveals that it had walked away from the £430 million project two months ago. The announcement was prompted by comments from Moscow's chief architect Sergei Kuznetsov, seemingly unaware of the resignation, who gave an ultimatum for the firm's founder to take a more active role in the development and visit the city within the next month.

"If Sir 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," Kuznetsov told journalists.

Speaking later to the Arts Newspaper, he added: "It's not the candidacy of Norman Foster that raises any questions. 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."

The architecture practice responded by revealing it had formally withdrawn from the project in a letter dated 5 June 2013, claiming that the museum had failed to involve them in the development of the design.

"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," said the firm.

"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."

Norman Foster had been appointed to the project in 2006 by former Pushkin Museum director Irina Antonova - a fan of Foster's work - who left the post in July after more than 50 years in charge. It was scheduled for completion in 2018 but may now be pushed back for another two years.

Foster + Parters is also currently working on a new California campus for Apple, which is reportedly $2 billion over budget, as well as a 200-metre skyscraper on Park Avenue, New York.

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Image of Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts is courtesy of Shutterstock.