University struggles to keep Broad museum under budget, on time
Winter is beginning to give way to warmth, but progress on MSU’s new art museum — which was set to break ground this spring — remains frozen.
At the time of its announcement last January, projected cost for the building was about $40 million. However, MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said last week initial outside estimates for the entire project were about $160 million — or roughly four times the original projected cost.
The problems are “based on confusion of competition,” Simon told Residence Halls Association members. “I remain hopeful we’ll get this thing done,” she said.
Simon was traveling and was unable to comment further during the weekend.
The Broad Art Museum — a state-of-the-art facility set to be built at the Collingwood Drive entrance of campus — was announced last spring after London-based architect Zaha Hadid won an international competition to design the building.
Billionaire MSU alumnus Eli Broad and his wife Edythe donated $26 million to the university to build the museum. Through other private donations, MSU said it would raise the remaining $14 million.
Simon told RHA that fundraising for the project is ongoing.
“If we get out of this economic crisis, the odds of raising money (are) much higher,” she said.
Bringing down the cost
Although Simon raised the possibility for the cost of the facility exceeding earlier estimates, MSU’s Associate Provost for Academic Services Linda Stanford said the museum will still be completed at or around the $40-million mark.
“There were some issues with cost and making sure we had enough donations to make it happen,” she said. “We’re still close to that. It’ll be close to $40 million.”
Stanford said the inflated budget estimate came after examining the feasibility of Hadid’s winning design. The design had to be altered in order to make the project more cost-efficient, Stanford said.
All aspects of the design are being considered to lower costs, including the materials used to build the museum and utilities needed to maintain the art, she said.
“They started with an idea,” Stanford said. “They started holistically and then they designed the parts of it and then we had someone cost it out. That’s how it appeared too big and then they said, ‘oh, OK, how are we going to bring it back down?’
“It’s kind of a reverse of the way you might build a house. I think people tend to start small and then they have add-ons. It’s the exact opposite approach.”
In regard to achieving the spring groundbreaking, however, Standford didn’t seem as confident.
“That would be great,” Stanford said. “I’m hoping for that, but I can’t officially say that.”
After announcing Hadid as designer for the museum, MSU hired Barton Malow Company as its construction management firm for the project. Barton Malow also was hired as lead contractor of the Skandalaris Football Center and the addition to Spartan Stadium.
Jed Dingen, a teaching specialist in the MSU School of Planning, Design & Construction, has examined the drawings of the art museum and uses them for senior projects in his classes. He said Barton Malow looked internationally to hire an envelope contractor, who would oversee all facets of construction.
“If you hired a roofer guy separate from a glass guy, separate from a joint guy, all three are going to blame each other for a leak,” Dingen said. “I would hire an envelope contractor who would then hire those three and he’s the one guy you got to talk to.”
However, Dingen said the response to the project from potential envelope contractors was lackluster.
“These guys all came back with, ‘I don’t really want to do this,’ or ‘this is too high for me to even price,’” Dingen said.
An e-mail to Barton Malow was not returned. Hadid’s firm declined to comment.
Dingen said the pleated roof becomes a problem in the winter when snow and ice would collect in the pleats. He said options for heating the roof exist but would be expensive.
“We have steam tunnels available and we can steal steam,” he said. “You could grab it and if you want, just heat the ceiling. It’s very difficult, very expensive.”
Back to the drawing board
Dingen said the building’s original dimensions of 18,000 square feet didn’t have sufficient gallery space for paintings. Because of that and other cost issues, Hadid and her firm are back at the drawing board, tweaking the original design.
“The architect gets to go back to the drawing board with a fresh start,” he said.
Stanford said a new budget agreement between MSU, Barton Malow and Hadid’s firm would be announced sometime in the future. Once that happens, ground can be broken and construction can begin. After the start of construction, Stanford said the building will take about 18 months to complete, and it will take an additional six months before art can be put on display.
Despite ongoing negotiations and a redesign from Hadid, Dingen said completing the museum for around $40 million is still possible.
“They’re just going to have to tune in that roof so it’s buildable,” he said. “I’m worried about just keeping it a signature building. Sometimes things can get watered down and lose their punch. You go to leave it strong and they will, I think.”
Staff writer Chris Vannini contributed to this story.