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NPG in Arup cash row but still in the running for Stirling Prize

NEWS

The National Portrait Gallery has refused to settle its account with Arup for M&E consultancy work on the Stirling-nominated extension by Jeremy Dixon.Edward Jones, the AJ has learnt.

Discussions are continuing to try and resolve the dispute after Arup presented a final bill double that of its original estimate. To date, the NPG has paid a sum 'slightly under' the original estimated figure.

Jeremy Dixon.Edward Jones has not been affected and has been paid in full.

Arup was reluctant to reveal details about the dispute, but a spokesperson said: 'We are in the course of discussions with the client in relation to additional fees. . . arising from changes to the design during the course of the project.'

But the dispute appears to extend beyond simply one of rising costs. Director of the NPG Charles Saumarez Smith said that the issue was 'immensely complicated' but that 'inevitably' discussions were taking place because of an issue about quality. He said the key to the dispute was whether Arup should be held liable for M&E problems - with the main issue focusing on the ventilation of the kitchen.Nonetheless, he emphasised that he was in friendly negotiations with Arup and that a settlement was 'extremely close'.

The revelation of an ongoing dispute is potentially embarrassing for the gallery in the run-up to the judging of the Stirling Prize later this month.

However, head of awards at the RIBA Tony Chapman said the building will not be taken off the shortlist 'since the award is to the architect'.

Odds on the £13.2 million NPG extension winning the Stirling Prize currently stand at 4-1.

The jury said of the building: 'Hidden from the street and entered through the Victorian inheritance, we were very impressed with the cool majesty of the spacious top-lit circulation hall and the ease with which visitors are drawn up by escalator to the second floor galleries. The detailing and use of materials is immaculate throughout, highly functional and subservient to the displayed artworks. We found the building to be uplifting and a joy to move around.'

In June, the building won a special category award at The Royal Fine Art Commission Trust's Building of the Year Award.

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