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Over Easy

Liability Issues

There were complicated issues about risk assessment and legal liability at various stages in the design and construction of Over Easy.


The Board of the Arc contracted the design and construction team for the building including an in-house project manager, architects, structural, mechanical and services engineers, acoustic engineers and construction company.

The Board of the Arc contracted the art commissions project manager, David Metcalfe Associates (DMA) and artist Richard Wilson (RW).


The architects passed liability for the part of the facade including Over Easy to RW.

The architects also said RW should appoint his own structural engineers and take on liability for the work's construction, weatherproofing, maintenance issues etc.


RW contracted structural engineers Price and Myers (PM), mechanical engineers W S Atkins (WSA) and other experts to provide professional advice at every stage of the design process. This advice would be covered by each firms' professional indemnity.

The Board of Arc, advised by its solicitors, required RW, as an individual artist, to take full legal responsibility for Over Easy, with financial implications of over £200,000, and to secure Deeds of Warranty from his professional advisers and contractors guaranteeing their advice/work. DMA felt strongly that RW should not be asked to take this responsibility. A contract was drafted, then amended, but events in the production of the work overtook the contracting process and this matter was never fully resolved.


The Board of Arc contracted Commercial Systems International (CSI) to construct and install Over Easy and the curtain wall glazing to the building, through John Laing Construction (JLC), the construction management contractors for the building.


CSI sub-contracted the Angle Ring Company (TARC) to make the metal rings for the piece.

CSI was not willing to accept liability for the rings meeting the required tolerance of +/-5mm and came back with a costing well over budget to meet extra costs and responsibilities.


A meeting of DMA, building architects, building project manager, WSA, CSI and JLC worked out a detailed schedule of liability and deadlines, and the Board of Arc agreed to accept the indefinable risk not covered. The meeting notes formed part of CSI's contract.

CSI insisted that their work should be signed off as accepted by the engineers at every stage, incurring extra costs from the mechanical and structural engineers to attend.


TARC made the ring sections for Over Easy which were checked for correct tolerance and signed off at their plant. The ring sections were then loaded and transported to CSI where they were unloaded, assembled, checked again, signed off and stored.


Installation was rescheduled from July to September due to the delays in manufacture. All arrangements including road closures around the Arc for several days, and other contractors were in place. Before CSI would deliver the ring sections, they insisted they should be finally signed off before transportation to absolve CSI of any liability. However, this was impossible within the time-frame set for installation.

This impasse was complicated further because of the complexities of the contractual arrangements. The engineers who could sign off the work as acceptable were contracted to RW but were being instructed by DMA, whilst CSI was contracted by JLC. There was no simple chain of command or accountability that could be effected to resolve the dispute. RW became involved and wrote personally to CSI, and finally DMA was able to speak directly with CSI to clarify the allocation of liabilities according to the contract, and to confirm to CSI that Arc was satisfied with the previous checks by WSA and would accept responsibility for any distortion of the rings during loading and transit.

Despite this problem, the ring sections arrived according to schedule, were installed and met the tolerances laid down. There were problems with burn out of the motor installed to revolve the central disk, because a heavier gauge of wood had been used in cladding the disk than had been specified. This has been resolved by altering the speed of the motors, making the disc move more quickly. Funding has to date not been made available for the re-gearing of the motors that is required to slow the piece to its intended speed.

© Copyright Joanna Morland 2000