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Kuma's V&A Dundee cost debacle 'creates public distrust in architects'

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The ‘fiasco’ surrounding the ballooning costs on Kengo Kuma and Associates’ proposed V&A museum Dundee ‘creates public distrust in the profession’, according to one of the architects originally shortlisted for the job

New York-based practice REX, which was named among the six finalists for the £45million project in late 2010, has hit out at the competition process saying that the design by the Japanese star ‘could never [have been] built within the assigned competition budget’.

Last week Dundee City Council confirmed the projected costs for the waterfront scheme had risen to £80.1million and that it would not now open until 2018.

Initially planned to sit in the River Tay south of Craig Harbour, the scheme was moved further inland in late 2012 to give the development team ‘greater certainty with regards to the building schedule’.

In a statement released to the AJ, a spokesman for OMA spin-off REX said: ‘The V&A selected a proposal that we all knew ,as experienced architects, could never be built within the assigned competition budget. The competition brief was emphatic about cost compliance. It also stated explicitly that submissions that did not demonstrate this compliance would be disqualified and requested competitors submit a detailed, professional cost estimate, formatted by the V&A, as part of our proposals. While we appreciated this intense attention paid to meeting the budget, it made the V&A’s decision for the winning proposal that much more surprising to many of us.’

He added: ‘Beyond affecting the city and citizens of Dundee, we are concerned these kinds of actions perpetuate a vicious cycle where architects must ignore a project’s practical demands in order to seduce a jury and win a commission. As clients deny architects a position of integrity, they create public distrust in our profession and damage the healthy competitive process that can engender great architecture.’ 

In its report on the costs escalation (see attached), Dundee City Council confirmed the its chief executive David Martin would be carrying out ‘a full review of the background to this situation so that lessons may be learned for future projects.’

Early this week the Scottish government announced it would be upping it commitment to the project from £15 million to £22.61 million.

The full shortlist in the 2010 contest

  • Steven Holl Architects with JM Architects, Arup and American structural engineers Guy Nordenson & Associates
  • Delugan Meissl Associated Architects from Vienna with German firm Wenzel + Wenzel, engineer Werner Sobek and Büro Kiefer
  • Kengo Kuma and Associates from Tokyo with Scotland’s cre8architecture, Optimised Environments and Arup
  • REX/Paul Stallan Studio @ RMJM, with Buro Happold and Urban Splash
  • Snøhetta from Oslo with Gareth Hoskins Architects and Adams Kara Taylor
  • Sutherland Hussey Architects from Edinburgh with 3DReid, AECOM and Gross.Max


Charlie Sutherland of contest finalist Sutherland Hussey
‘After four years of design development, design reviews, cost cutting, moving site, value engineering, postponement and procrastination by a raft of design and cost consultants the conclusion that the awarded design is double the original cost is not really a surprise to anyone involved in the competition process.What a fiasco

‘The Kuma design could only fit half of their model in the pre-assigned cube allocated at the competition stage.

‘[Director of city development at Dundee City Council] Mike Galloway’s imperious pronouncement to all those briefed for the competition that “‘any design that is clearly over budget at this stage will be thrown out” rings very hollow indeed.

‘What a fiasco!’

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Adding to the body of evidence that architects have lost the plot on practicalities.

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