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Court orders AEW to pay further £1.24m on botched Liverpool Museum job

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AEW Architects has today been ordered to pay an additional £1.24m in damages to National Museums Liverpool, on top of the £1.2m damages awarded last month

The latest High Court decision relates to design faults on some of the ceilings within the waterside museum - one of which is understood to have partially fallen in.

Last month the practice, which replaced Danish architects 3XN on the landmark project in late 2007, was hit with a bill for damages over design faults on external steps and terraces (see below).

Sharon Granville, executive director of the Museum of Liverpool, said: ‘Last month the court found in favour of National Museums Liverpool on all counts. We are very pleased with this latest settlement. In total we’ve had more than £2.3m awarded to us in damages with further sums in indemnities on top of that. Interest and costs will be awarded in October.’

She added: ‘This is great news for our visitors as it means we can rectify long-standing issues with the building and make areas accessible to the public in the near future.’

In responseSteve Burne, managing director of AEW Architects said: ‘This is the final stage relating to the amount awarded as part of the judgement which was first issued on 31 July. We are glad this is now concluded.’

Previous story: (AJ 01.08.2013, Greg Pitcher)

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.’

AEW’s response: 

‘We are disappointed with the outcome of the case. The matter is being dealt with by our insurers and does not affect the ongoing health of the business, but we take criticism seriously.

‘We pride ourselves on outstanding levels of service, a fact borne out by over 95 per cent of our business being for repeat clients. The management structure of the company has completely changed since the events of 2009 and we have moved in a different direction in the last four years’.


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