What it feels like to ... CONSTRUCT A MUSEUM
I’m from Montrose, 35 miles up the road. I live in Dundee and the Kengo Kuma V&A design was the one I voted for. It was extremely beautiful. I also looked at it and thought: “I don’t know how you build that.”
Basically, a project manager is the client’s representative. To manage the delivery of a project, usually from the briefing that goes to designers, the selection of the designers, the development of the design through to the procurement of construction, delivering the construction project and the cost management of all that.
On a project like this it’s a little more complex because there are many stakeholders who need to know it
is being delivered. It was incredibly challenging structurally to make that building work. It’s two inverted pyramids and in the middle of each is a concrete core. In this structure everything is twisting. It’s not a simple vertical building.
I always said the two real serious challenges were building it out in the river and the structure itself. That’s where the money is.
The problem with building it in the river is an obvious one. There’s no site. It’s a river. How do you create that site? To do that you have to build a cofferdam into the river, 100 metres out. That was going to cost vastly more than anybody could know at the outset.
The river is a protected habitat. To satisfy Scottish Natural Heritage we had to do a long-term study of all the species in the estuary. We found that we had harbour seals, which are an endangered species on the east coast, and we had sea lampreys, which I had never heard of and are also endangered.
With escalating construction time and cost risk I took it back to the stakeholders and recommended we consider moving the building onshore.
Kuma has been incredibly respectful of the stakeholders. All through the design process he has always taken on board the concerns and very creatively found positive responses, often better than the original. That’s a remarkable talent. I haven’t seen that very often.
There were plenty of sleepless nights.