Princeton lawsuit Tod Williams Billie Tsien

Tod Williams Billie Tsien faces $10.7 million lawsuit for Princeton University building

Princeton University is suing Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects over the school's Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, claiming the building process was careless and took too long.

The New York firm and Texas sub-consultants Jacobs Entities of Jacobs Engineering Group are both being sued for work done on the research institute, which was completed in 2016 for the New Jersey university.

The $10.7 million (£8.12 million) lawsuit was filed in December 2019 by the Board of Trustees of Princeton University on account of a breach of contract that includes design negligence and unforeseen costs.

Princeton files "unusual but necessary" lawsuit 

In the lawsuit, Princeton alleges that the design team at Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects (TWBTA) "failed to perform their professional design responsibilities in accordance with the prevailing standard of care, resulting in unnecessary and excessive additional costs and expensive project delays."

Princeton University deputy spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss described the procedure as an "unusual but necessary action" in a statement.

"The University seeks to recover additional costs it incurred due to extensive changes and delays those companies caused in the construction of the Andlinger Center," Hotchkiss continued.

"As detailed in the complaint, TWBTA and Jacobs failed to meet their obligations in the construction of the Center, and the University is asserting claims for breach of contract and negligence, among others."

Dezeen has also approached TWBTA for comment.

Design team is blamed for causing project delays

The 129,000-square-feet (11,984-square-metre) Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment is a shared research facility within the School of Engineering and Applied Science. The building has is L-shaped grey brickwork volume, with 60 per cent below grade.

TWBTA was enlisted to design the project in 2009, and construction began in 2012 and completed in May 2016 – 10 months behind schedule, as reported by local newspaper The Daily Princetonian.

The complaint allegedly claims that nearly half of the delay was caused by TWBTA and Jacobs Entities, according to the local newspaper.

Between 2012 and 2017, the firms issued 87 Architect's Supplemental Instructions (ASI) – notices to make minor changes that do not affect the project timeline or contract. These then caused 462 Change Order Requests (COR), which typically cause changes to budget and timeline, as reported by The Daily Princetonian.

The design team's "errors and omissions" allegedly accounted for 438 of the CORs, while others issues related to 3D modelling software issues and delays caused by the team.

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Williams, who established the firm with his wife in 1986, has a Master of Fine Arts from Princeton. TWBTA has also completed student housing Feinberg Hall on the university's campus in Princeton, New Jersey.

Last year, the New York firm was named the architecture laureates for the Japan Art Association's 2019 Praemium Imperiale awards, following other well-known winners such as Norman FosterRem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid.

The lawsuit over the Andlinger Center, however, forms the latest controversy for the practice. In 2014, the firm's American Folk Art Museum was demolished to make way for the expanded Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) that opened in October.

Williams and Tsien also faced criticism for the overhaul of the postmodern Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, which opened last year.

The firm has experienced controversies for a number of other projects, including the upcoming Obama Presidential Library, set to be built in Chicago's historic Jackson Park.

Photograph is by Michael Moran, courtesy of the American Institute of Architects.