Architect AEW hit by £3.5m claim after newly opened £72m museum finds faulty steps and ceilings

The newly opened National Museum of Liverpool is suffering a host of serious technical problems including dangerous and defective outdoor steps and ceiling problems linked to a collapse that injured a workman.

The £72m building - the largest newly built national museum in the UK for more than a century - only opened in July but is already subject to a major “remedial scheme” to rectify these issues and make it a worthy destination for the 750,000 visitors expected each year.

The details have emerged in a £3.5m High Court claim made by owner and operator the Board of Trustees of National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside against architect and lead consultant AEW Architects.

The museum has already taken legal action against original architect 3XN, kicked off the job in 2007. It has been involved in previous legal wrangles with AEW and had to pay back £500,000 worth of unpaid fees to the practice last year.

In the claim document, obtained by Building, the museum accused AEW of a breach of its deed of appointment and/or its common law duty of care and alleged that it failed to design gallery suspended ceilings “adequately, or indeed, at all.”

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

“The net result is that notwithstanding the fact that over 750,000 people […] will visit the museum over the next 12 months, it is unable to offer anything like the experience it should and would be able to had the collapse not occurred.”

The document also claimed the museum would have to replace precast steps and an entrance terrace as a result of what it said was “defective” design by AEW.

The museum claimed that the steps are unsafe, lack planning permission and are insufficiently water resistant to protect rooms beneath them.

AEW Architects, which has yet to file a defence, declined to comment.

The museum was built by Galliford Try and Danish contractor Pihl.