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Architects in Blighted Museum Project Must Pay £2.3 Million

In a stark reminder that even the most prestigious building projects can go seriously wrong, the trustees of the new Museum of Liverpool have been awarded more than £2.3 million damages against a leading firm of architects they blamed for a series of costly design and construction problems.

Construction of the dramatic museum building, noted for its aluminium-clad roofs and striking ‘half-amphitheatres’ at either end of the structure, was beset by difficulties in relation to steps and seating areas as well as suspended ceilings, one of which collapsed and injured a workman.

The Technology and Construction Court found that the firm of architects engaged by the trustees had performed ‘extremely poorly’ in its co-ordination of the project and may have misunderstood the extent of its contractual obligations. The firm had fallen short of the standard to be expected of a competent architect in that it had failed from start to finish to appreciate or understand the basic geometry of steps, seats and terraces which were central features of the design.

Noting that the museum was a prestige project, intended to provide an architectural legacy to the people of Liverpool, the Court found that the firm had acted negligently and in breach of contract in instructing contractors to proceed with a solution to a perceived design problem which created a very different aesthetic effect and which had been described as ‘an abomination’ by the trustees.

The firm was also held liable in respect of inadequately installed ceilings and was ordered to pay a total of £2,364,290 in damages to cover, amongst other things, the cost of remedial works and lost profits. The firm must also indemnify the trustees against relevant future losses, including the potential cost of compensating the injured workman. Building contractors engaged in the project were also found to have been negligent in certain respects and were ordered to contribute £205,080 towards the firm’s overall bill.