Architect’s defence against £3.5m claim for defects says museum overreacted

Architect AEW has hit back at the National Museum of Liverpool in the High Court following the museum’s £3.5m legal claim against it.

Last November, Building revealed that the newly opened £72m building - the largest newly built national museum in the UK for more than a century - had reported a host of alleged serious technical problems. These included dangerous and defective outdoor steps and an entrance terrace and ceiling problems linked to a collapse that injured a workman.

Owner and operator the Board of Trustees of National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside accused Manchester-based AEW of a breach of contract over the issues and said it had been forced to undertake a major “remedial scheme” to make the building a worthy destination for the 750,000 visitors expected each year.

The claim said that the system used for the suspended ceilings was “inherently inappropriate and dangerous” and was a “material cause” of the collapse of a large number of ceiling panels last May, which injured a worker.

It also pointed to what it said was the “defective” design of outdoor steps and an entrance terrace, something it said allowed water to penetrate through to rooms below and could potentially lead to trapped fingers or high heeled shoes in the gaps between the steps.

Now, AEW’s defence filed at the High Court has accused the museum of overreacting in removing ceilings and seeking to replace the steps and terrace.

“There was no need to remedy the steps and terraces as alleged or at all,” the papers stated.“The closure of the area to the public was unnecessary, as was the removal of substantial sections of the step and seat units.

“AEW avers that with the exception of minor modifications … the steps and terrace were appropriate.”

On the ceilings, the defence said that they had been designed to allow access to a “void” above but not to allow reconfiguration and suggested the ceilings had been “inappropriately interfered with”. The defence continued: “It was unreasonable and unnecessary to remove the ceilings.”

It also complained that the museum had failed to provide AEW with further information on its claim as requested last month, calling the museum’s response “wholly inadequate”.

A Museum of Liverpool spokesman said that as the legal action was ongoing “we can make no further comment.”