Neil Lock’s project to construct a colossal columnless basement gallery in a quality-worshipping museum proved as intense and testing as it was thrilling and inspiring.
With zest and expertise, he overcame the huge technical challenge of excavating a 16m-deep gallery just two metres away from priceless artefacts in grade I-listed buildings. He not only built a strong managerial team, but also an excellent relationship with the client and the professionals through insight, hard work, common sense and excellent communications.
‘Intense, testing and time-consuming’ seems a reasonable if downplayed description of Neil Lock’s project to excavate and construct a colossal 1,100sqm columnless basement gallery in a world-class quality-worshipping museum. Yet the truth is that Neil, perhaps as any high-flying construction manager would be, was exhilarated, thrilled and inspired by the whole heart-stopping experience. For him it was more dream project than the nightmare in the making it might suggest to mere mortals.
Even the briefest consideration of the scheme quickens the pulse. Logistical ordeal: with 6,000 lorry movements through a single entrance onto a major London road – check.
Groundworks horror: with a full-perimeter secant wall piled 25m deep for a 16m-deep basement gallery just two metres away from priceless artefacts in grade I-listed buildings – check.
Structural purgatory: with the largest columnless gallery in Europe to be built from 40m-long single-span trusses weighing 12 tonnes apiece (not to mention an outside courtyard cafe created from 5m-wide structural glazing, curved and slotted into an existing stone facade) – check.
Merciless tolerances: with just 5mm of movement allowed for an existing masonry structure, a mere metre away and weighing around 900 tons per elevation, during the piling, and a further 20mm during the basement excavation – check.
And that is by no means all – let’s just toss in the close to 1,000 change requests he successfully processed as well.
Neil managed it all with zest and skill. And he didn’t just triumph over the myriad technical challenges through his own expertise and building a strong team, but by building an excellent relationship with the client and the professional team through insight, hard work, common sense and excellent communications. Right from the start he ensured he was close to the client and that all the contractors were behind him, and understood the key issues and drivers. He brought it all together to deliver a building that any construction manager would be proud to boast as a legacy.