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EXCLUSIVE

Herzog & de Meuron took pay cut for Tate Modern extension

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Swiss architect Herzog & de Meuron was asked to take a reduced fee for its continuing work on the Tate Modern Switch House, according to documents obtained by the AJ under FOI

Minutes from a Tate board of trustees meeting held in July 2015 show that Herzog & de Meuron was asked not to take its full percentage fee for extra work on the 10-storey project as the brick-clad scheme ballooned in costs from £215 million in 2012 to £260 million on completion in 2016.

Although the practice was paid in full under the initial contract, in 2015 it was asked to accept a lower fee for the remaining work on the landmark scheme after it went 21 per cent over budget and significantly overran its scheduled timescale (see AJ 22.09.15). 

The Tate Modern Switch House was originally intended to complete in time for the 2012 Olympic Games, but was delayed by nearly four years, finally opening to the public in June 2016. 

The AJ received the documents, along with minutes from two earlier board of trustees meetings held in July 2013 and November 2014, following a prolonged battle with the Tate over a Freedom of Information request submitted in May last year. The minutes have finally been released to the AJ after an independent review by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

‘Trustees were updated on negotiations with Herzog & de Meuron,’ the July 2015 minutes read. ’It has been put to the firm that it should not be paid the full fee due on a percentage basis.

’Conversation at a senior level indicates that the firm will look sympathetically on this position, but that costs have already been incurred to a certain level, which will require some recompense, allowed for in the figures budgeted.’

According to the Tate, the contract with Herzog & de Meuron was successfully re-negotiated as the completion date was pushed back.

’The basic fee was a lump sum fee, which was paid in full,’ said a Tate spokesperson. ’The fees being discussed in the minutes are additional fees for additional services in connection with the extended construction programme.

’Herzog & de Meuron agreed to reduce these additional fees to cover the basic cost of resourcing the project to completion. The statement in the minutes reflects part of that conversation.’

A Herzog & de Meuron spokesperson declined to comment.

The documents also reveal significant concerns over the complicated design of the brickwork façade, as well as issues with the construction team - in particular with Seele, the company which installed the windows, and Loveld, which was responsible for the concrete. 

In the November 2014 meeting, the ‘complex nature’ of the brickwork installation was acknowledged as a potential problem with the minutes stating that the ’highest level of risk comes from the brickwork’.

The same November meeting notes that ’the bricks [for the façade had] been made, but labour is currently in short supply, with a limited number of practitioners of sufficient skill available’. 

The minutes add that ‘many’ of Seele’s 78 workers on site were brought in from Germany to install the windows in order to ‘maintain technical quality’.

In the July 2015 meeting, the minutes state that the installation of the windows would ‘require synchronisation with the brickwork as it rises up the building’. It was also reported from the same meeting that: ‘Satisfactory performance on contracts was reported, with the exception of Seele and Loveld, which remain the main issues for the project.’ 

In a July 2013 meeting the minutes discuss financial claims being pursued against unspecified companies which had worked on the project.

The minutes read: ‘Claims against failed contractors and a reassessment of fees paid historically will be pursued aggressively to a range of values between £0.5 million and £8 million.’

A spokesperson for the Tate said the extension’s brickwork had not been as complicated as anticipated.

’As you would expect with a major building project of this scale with ground-breaking design Tate continually assessed and mitigated any potential risks for the project,’ they said.

’As detailed in the minutes the brickwork was noted as high risk because of its complex nature, however, the install of the bricks went very well and was not as complicated as anticipated. It had also been raised as a potential risk that there may not be enough labour available to install the bricks but this was not the case when we came to install them.’

Both Seele and Loveld declined to comment.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Reading this gives a flavour of the sort of challenges that can arise with the 'buildability' of intricate and unusual design details in 'high end' architecture, and there's surely a need for more documentation of this - starting, perhaps, with the history of the actual construction of Le Corbusier's chapel of Notre Dame du Haut at Ronchamp in 1954.

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