Corby Cube: £12m over budget
The cross-party review team investigated why the “iconic” arts venue and council HQ cost £47m compared to its £35m budget, and includes a “helter skelter” spiral staircase deemed “not user friendly to other than the most active and able”.
According to a report in the Architects' Journal, the Cube can only seat 1,560, half its planned capacity, and was also built with a flawed fire safety strategy which initially restricted audience numbers to 600.
Corby Borough Council was the client for the project, although the report documents how it inherited the project and contractual arrangements from Catalyst Corby, the urban development company later rolled into the North Northants Development Company.
It had little in-house construction experience, and appointed its head of human resources as head of special projects, including the Cube.
Hawkins/Brown was appointed architect in 2007 under a GC Works Form, and also had contractual responsibility for appointing and managing numerous sub-consultants, including the QS (Gardiner & Theobald), structural and services engineers, landscape architect and others “as required”.
The report argues: “It should be noted that this list of additional consultants included for an access consultant and fire strategy engineer and is particularly relevant in relation to the continuing issues with the Cube trying to gain Fire and Building regulations certification.”
Galliford Try was appointed under a JCT standard form with Contractors Design Portions after three other bidders withdrew. The report describes how the contract was tendered at the height of the building boom, and under time pressure related to funding programmes. The client's project manager administering the contract was Mouchel.
The four councillors who wrote the report interviewed staff from the council and consultants, although not from Hawkins/Brown or Galliford Try. It documents a number of failings, including:
The report describes how problems initially began with the enabling works contract. But once the main contract commenced, lack of clarity as to what was the architect's design and what was CDP led to tense relations.
The report also adds: “it is questionable whether the council will be able to afford the investment to maintain the fabric of the building, given the absence of any forethought as to lifecycle costs.”
The report, written in March but only made public this week, calls for further investigations into the Cube and better governance of future Corby Borough Council projects.
Hawkins/Brown declined comment on the report.