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High Court: AEW to cough up £1.1m over Liverpool Museum defects

Manchester-based AEW Architects has been ordered by the High Court to pay £1.1 million over the troubled Museum of Liverpool scheme

The practice, which replaced Danish architects 3XN on the project in late 2007, was taken to court by client National Museums Liverpool.

The £72million riverfront museum was hit by a number of issues, including ‘design problems’ with steps, seats and terraces, according to judge Mr Justice Akenhead.

He said the original concept of the museum’s steps and seats was that they would ‘align very precisely’ in a valley running between two adjoining elevations.

But after concerns about alignment were raised by contractor Pihl Galliford Try in 2009, AEW instructed it to introduce a plinth. The judge said this plinth ‘in effect covered up the wayward and unsuccessful jointing arrangements between the steps and the seats’.

‘Wholly unacceptable’

In January 2010, museum executive director Sharon Granville described the plinth as ‘wholly unacceptable’ and ‘an abomination’. 

Mr Akenhead said: ‘It is simply extraordinary that competent architects could consider that it was acceptable to adopt the plinth solution… and, even worse, without seeking the informed approval of its client.’

The judge also noted that AEW was unable to come up with an acceptable solution to the problem after the plinth was ruled unacceptable.

Significant remedial work is necessary to reach a satisfactory conclusion of the project, Mr Akenhead found.

He ordered AEW to pay £1.13m to the museum in relation to the steps, seats and terraces. He also ruled that the contractor should pay AEW £0.2m for its role in the botched work.

He will rule on the ceilings claims at a later date.

Granville said National Museums Liverpool was ‘very pleased’ with the judgement.

‘This financial award for the external works means that we will now be able to rectify the long-standing issues with the external steps and terraces at the museum and make them accessible to the public as soon as possible.’

3XN principal Kim Herforth Nielsen said: ‘I welcome [that] the building [will] be completed as it should have been at the opening,’

‘[The judgement] proves that the client should never have engaged AEW to complete the building without 3XN.

 ‘It would have saved everybody a lot of money and resources if 3XN had continued their work to the completion of the building.’ ‘Our intent is to always be on time and on budget.’




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