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Horniman Museum drops ‘erroneous’ PI bar following architects’ outcry

Horniman Museum
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The Horniman Public Museum and Public Park Trust has drastically reduced the professional indemnity (PI) insurance limitation on bidders to remasterplan its 6.5ha hilltop home in south-east London

A Horniman spokesperson said practices bidding for the contract would require just £1million in PI cover, compared to the £10 million originally quoted, and said the original figure was a mistake.

The move follows criticism from architects that the onerous and unnecessary requirements would effectively prohibit small practices from applying for the work.

The winner of the contract – originally valued at a minimum of £10,000 but now also ‘corrected’ to £20,000 – will draw up a masterplan for the Grade II*-listed Arts-and-Crafts-style building and its surrounding gardens, which feature stunning views of the capital’s skyline. 

But Russell Curtis of procurement reform group Project Compass said he thought the fee was still too low.

‘While it’s commendable that the Horniman Museum has now reduced its PII requirement to a much more palatable £1 million, there is still the issue of the £20,000 estimated fee which will remain a significant disincentive for most practices,’ he said.

‘This too may have been provided either in haste or in error, but either way, it’s a worrying sign of a lack of competent external guidance. Inexperienced public clients really should obtain independent advice before embarking upon such an important project such as this.’

The remasterplanning project is intended to reduce congestion in the entrance area; improve accessibility and legibility for visitors; and set out a range of options for the museum’s study collections centre.

In its briefing document, the Horniman says the masterplan ‘needs to address the historical context of the Horniman and implications of the developments for our local community as well as the museum’s requirements and aspirations. There will therefore be a need for consultation with users and the local community as part of the master-planning process.

‘The masterplan also needs to be flexible to allow it to adapt and change over 10 years. There is a requirement to raise external funds for nearly all of the elements of the plan, and there are constraints on our own capacity to do this, and to manage multiple projects. As a result, the developments will have to be phased over the period.’

Named after its founder, English tea trader Frederick John Horniman, the museum occupies a hilltop site overlooking Dulwich in south-east London. Displays include musical instruments and artefacts relating to anthropology and natural history.

The Horniman’s main building, designed by Charles Harrison Townsend, opened in 1901 and an extension was completed 10 years later by the same architect. Allies and Morrison expanded the complex in 2002, while Walters & Cohen completed a £2.3 million garden pavilion in 2012.

Earlier this summer, MICA Architects and Ralph Appelbaum Associates completed a £1 million refurbishment of the museum’s South Hall Gallery.

The latest project follows the appointment of a new museum chief executive, Nick Merriman, and is part of plans to diversify audiences, enhance the venue’s social impact, improve collections and build a more sustainable economic foundation for the enterprise.

The winning team will draw up a 10-year strategy featuring a range of smaller projects intended to transform the site which receives close to a million visitors every year. Plans to rethink the Horniman’s Study Collections Centre in North Greenwich will also be required.

Bids will be evaluated 60 per cent on quality and 40 per cent on cost. The deadline for applications is midday, 17 December.

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