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Rain Forest Drops Design Firm

Jim O'Neal

The Gazette

August 21, 2005

[Note: This material is copyright by The Gazette, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of The Gazette.]

    CORALVILLE — The Iowa Environmental Project has terminated its contract with the Boston architectural firm that was designing the indoor rain forest because the project’s principal designer has left the firm.

    One of the remaining partners in the firm, Chermayeff, Sollogub & Poole Inc., said the project owes CSP hundreds of thousands of dollars for work it has done to date.

    David Oman, executive director of the $180 million project, said Saturday the Iowa Environmental Project’s board terminated its contract with CSP in June because Peter Sollogub returned to his previous firm, Cambridge Seven Associates.

    ‘‘He was the person who was doing virtually all of the work,’’ Oman said. ‘‘He, of his own volition, chose to return to his old firm. When we learned of that, it was a relatively easy call for us to decide to end the contract.’’

    Cambridge Seven is among the firms now vying for the contract and is one of three firms project leaders have interviewed, Oman said.

    Architect Peter Chermayeff, who co-founded Cambridge Seven before forming CSP with Sollogub and Bobby Poole, said he had invested years of work in planning a rain forest, which he previously hoped to build in Scotland or Japan before Des Moines businessman Ted Townsend championed the project and put up $10 million for its construction in Iowa.

    Chermayeff said he was disappointed by the decision.

    ‘‘That was a shock. We have worked very diligently and with great enthusiasm to help advance the project, lending our name and our experience to help obtain support and funding,’’ he said.

    Chermayeff said Sollogub told him he was returning to Cambridge Seven because he wanted to get back to working on more varied projects.

    He said he and Sollogub had discussed the possibility of collaborating on projects Sollogub had begun while at CSP. He added, however, that Sollogub’s work on the rain forest is the property of CSP.

    He said the Iowa Environmental Project owes CSP for work it has done and must satisfy other contractual obligations. He said any release of design work owned by CSP would be addressed as the board and the firm negotiate the end of their relationship.