What it feels like to ... CON­STRUCT A MU­SEUM

The Herald Magazine - - FIRST UP - JOHN TAVEN­DALE

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.

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