Local firm sues art museum architects

A local engineering firm is suing the architects behind the newly renovated Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, saying they were shorted hundreds of thousands of dollars for work they did on the project.

Hankins & Anderson filed the suit last week in Richmond Circuit Court. The firm is represented by McGuireWoods attorneys Jeff Shapiro, John Barr and Eric Martin.

Shapiro said he could not comment on the case at this time.

The suit alleges that Rick Mather + SMBW LLC, the partnership formed between the high-profile British architect and a local architecture firm, failed to pay a significant portion of the bill for engineering services provided by Hankins & Anderson.

Louis Wolf, a partner of SMBW, said the suit filed against them is only one side of the story: “The issue arises from a dispute regarding the respective duties and obligations between our two firms. At present, only one side of the dispute as been presented in this filing.”

Wolf said they had no further comment at this time.

The architects hired Hankins & Anderson in January 2002 to provide engineering services for the $122 million renovation and expansion of the VMFA, including its parking deck. The revamped museum opened to the public last spring.

According to the suit, the architects still owe them $227,704 for work performed. They are also suing for an amount not less than $500,000 for additional expenses incurred due to mismanagement of the project that resulted in “unanticipated delays of well over a year” which caused Hankins & Anderson to “engage in extensive redesign beyond the scope of work in the subcontract.”

Most of the billed expenses have been paid, according to the suit. The total bill from Hankins and Anderson was $2.3 million. However, Hankins & Anderson claims portions of that were paid more than 12 months late, in violation of the contract.

The suit claims that SMBW has refused to pay the remaining balance without any justification given, despite numerous requests from the plaintiff.

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