Architect questions Rocky Hill museum design

GLASSY: Crone Architects' design for the Rocky Hill museum employs extensive use of glass and a rooftop garden. Image: Crone Architects.

GLASSY: Crone Architects' design for the Rocky Hill museum employs extensive use of glass and a rooftop garden. Image: Crone Architects.

A local architect doubts whether Rocky Hill museum’s extension can be delivered within the promised price.

Andrew Randall, of Randall Dutaillis Architects, said he worked extensively with volunteers and a working party before offering up his design to Goulburn Mulwaree Council.

But in March the council selected Sydney-based Crone Architects to design the addition after advertising ‘requests for design.’ While it did not include construction, the extension was estimated to cost $1.73m to build, in contrast to Randall Dutaillis’s at $1.886m. 

General manager Warwick Bennett said a selection panel’s decision was based on the design, aesthetic and environmental impact on the War Memorial precinct and the architect’s capacity to deliver on time.

“Price and experience was an important part of it and that’s where Crone won,” he said.

But Mr Randall suspects it will cost more, partly due to the need for “greater bushfire protection,” given its extensive use of external glass.

“We concluded that glass would require a screen, so we discounted it,” he said.

“I don’t know how you comply with bushfire regulations. The only way is through landscape clearing and sprinklers, or having a large water tank on site with a substantial diesel pump.  All that adds a considerable cost to the building. The question is, who pays for it?

“...I have a feeling that if we see a quantity surveyor’s report for that building it will be like the performing arts building; the costs will keep going up and it’s all pretty predictable. In another location, okay, but this is an isolated site.”

For the same reason, Mr Randall has questioned the wisdom of Crone’s incorporation of a rooftop garden.

Crone Architects declined comment, saying the council had requested them to do so “until after the development application was approved in coming weeks.”

The council has not yet replied to a question on whether an independent assessment was undertaken on the DA.

The newspaper also understands some members of the Rocky Hill working party were unhappy about the chosen design. The council does not allow members to speak to the press.

Mr Randall claimed the council had selected a design that looked good in a glossy brochure.”

But he suspects that aspects of the plan will “have to be revisited.”

DOUBTS: Local architect Andrew Randall is sceptical that Crone Architects' design for the Rocky Hill Museum extension can be delivered within budget.

DOUBTS: Local architect Andrew Randall is sceptical that Crone Architects' design for the Rocky Hill Museum extension can be delivered within budget.

Mr Randall told The Post that over 18 months his firm liaised closely with a Rocky Hill redevelopment working party on their needs. This started with an informal request for advice from the user group and progressed to a formal council invitation to provide a master plan for a redeveloped precinct. 

It included a new museum, walkways, carpark designs and more. Randall Dutaillis also provided a detailed design for the museum extension, for which the council engaged a quantity surveyor to scrutinise the cost.

This figure ($1.69m for design plus $332,000 in contingencies) was used as a guide in the council’s ultimately successful bid for $1.25 million for the museum. The federal government announced the grant under its Building Better Regions fund last week. 

“We were under the impression they were using our design when they went for the funding,” Mr Randall said.

“They used it as a mechanism for funding and then they went for another company...We just thought it was very unusual because we had been quite involved in the process.”

However the council advised him in February that as part of the Building Better Regions fund, it had to seek costings from several architectural firms. It also approached Crone and Phillip Cox Architects.

Council general manager Warwick Bennett said this did not require a tender and instead fell under procurement guidelines because the design cost was under $150,000. Crone’s price was $130,000 and Randall Dutaillis’s – $144,000.

A December, 2016 report to the council made it clear that a procurement process was necessary.

Mr Bennett acknowledged that the council had time constraints to lodge the funding application by February, 2017. The Crone contract was awarded in March.

“This (request for designs) was rushed,” Mr Randall said.

“All kudos to Phillip Cox and Crone for coming up with a scheme quickly but I don’t know if they went up there and consulted with the user group.”

However The Post is aware they were required to do so.

Mr Randall said his price of $1.69m included all engineering studies, hydraulics and Building Code of Australia requirements, allowing a builder to accurately quote on the work.

He also questions whether Crone Architects’ floor area will properly accommodate the museum. He allowed 380 square metres, including a lower level ‘back of house area’ and an upper level the public space. But he noted that Crone was providing 200sqm.

Last month Mr Randall said he was concerned the council didn’t think local firms could deliver large projects. He was speaking after his firm lost a tender to design stage one of the aquatic centre’s upgrade. But Mr Bennett rejected this, saying the council often engaged local architects.

He said Crone’s was a “higher end design” and the council would be aiming to fit it within the $2.5m budget.

“We may have to reassess once we have the final design and costings done,” Mr Bennett said in July.

“A quantity surveyor will also have to look at it.” 

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