Leaks, an “unusable” rooftop terrace, and an “interior environment of inadequate quality” are among the complaints leveled against WHY Architects and Swinerton Builders by the foundation that hired them to build a $38 million pavilion for San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum (AAM).

“The fundamental question to be resolved in the action is who must pay for those costly repairs and interventions,” the museum stated in a September 25 press release announcing their legal action. Swinerton filed their own lawsuit against the museum in 2021.

AAM’s foundation — the privately funded arm of the city-run museum — hired the two companies back in 2016 and paid for the project. According to the museum, the pavilion was completed late, eventually opening in 2020.

AAM says WHY has blamed Swinerton for not following its instructions. Conversely, the construction company has accused the architecture firm of not providing adequate plans.

“WHY is proud of its design,” the company said in a statement provided to Hyperallergic through its legal firm Schwartz and Janzen. “We are confident that all issues at AAM were caused by construction failures and were not the fault of the design professionals.” Swinerton Builders has not responded to Hyperallergic‘s immediate request for comment.

“The Foundation is trapped in the middle,” AAM stated. The museum says its foundation was forced to pay for repairs and aims to recuperate its spending losses.

“The Foundation’s fundamental principle is to honor the goodwill and original intent of hundreds of generous donors,” reads the museum’s statement. “[Their] gifts serve to enhance an iconic public institution and support the museum’s efforts to provide meaningful art and cultural experiences to our communities — now, and for generations to come.

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.

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