SCOTLAND’S culture secretary has insisted the new cost of the Dundee V&A museum is a “fixed price” – as its Japanese architect admitted he was surprised the price had gone up so much.
As work finally got under way on the long-delayed project, Fiona Hyslop said the Scottish Government had been given firm “assurances” by those in charge of the long-delayed project that there would be no further rises.
She defended the extra funding that had been ploughed into the project on the grounds that the government did not want to see its scale of ambition reduced in the face of the rising costs.
But architect Kengo Kuma, whose designs won a public competition, admitted compromises have had to be made to try to keep the costs down, including moving the site of the building closer to the city centre.
It emerged two years ago that plans to have the UK’s first design museum to be built outside London effectively “floating” on the River Tay had been scrapped due to cost concerns.
It will now sit alongside the city’s famous polar exploration ship “Discovery.” The director of the Dundee V&A museum, Philip Long, said around £6.5 million could have been shaved off the final bill by moving the project completely inland, but this had been deemed an “unacceptable” compromise too far.
Critics had been warning for years that Mr Kumo’s designs could not be delivered for the original price tag of £45m.
Despite insisting its costs were being pegged back, it emerged in January that they had soared to more than £80m after the tendering process.
The government has confirmed an additional £10m, with millions of pounds of extra funding also having to be found by both Dundee City Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund to make up the shortfall.
Ministers have resisted demands for an inquiry into the project after it emerged that they were alerted to major problems last April.
Ms Hyslop said: “Our commitment to this project and the additional contribution we have made is on the basis that there is a fixed-price contract.
“We’ve had the assurances that we need on that and that there would also be no compromise in terms of the ambition of the project. There have been quite robust discussions in recent months. We’ve been rigorous.” Mr Kuma, who visited Dundee for an official ceremony to mark the start of work, insisted his original vision was still intact. He said he had been surprised at the extent of the cost increases, but said the building was also “very special and complex” and he did not want to guarantee it could be delivered for the new cost.
Mr Kuma said: “We’ve tried to find the best solution by moving the site a little bit. It’s a bit closer to the city and it’s become a more human building. The vision we had five years ago is still in the design. It will be a very strong building. With any project, some compromises and modifications are necessary, architects have to work as flexibility as possible.”
Mr Long said he did not accept that the original budget was unrealistic, adding: “The team have worked very hard to keep the building within budget. When it went out to tender at the end of 2013 the advice we received was that it remained within that budget. We’ve been very conscious of our responsibility to work to the budget.
“One of the things we looked at last year was bringing the building completely inland, but the firm view of all of the project partners was that that would have been an unacceptable compromise. We wanted to build the best here in Dundee.”
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