Financier sues architect for £1m for ‘disaster’ cinema in £7m home
Wealthy financier sues top architect for £1m after he was promised a floating modernist home cinema with ‘wow factor’ but got an ‘ugly, industrial disaster he loathes’ for his £7m home
- Former Barclays Capital operations head Philip Freeborn, 55, wanted a ‘sleek modernist cube’ home cinema ‘floating in the roof ‘ of his £7m London home
- He claims architect Daniel Marcal produced an ‘eyesore’ with thick steel columns
- Mr Freeborn is suing Mr Marcal for £1 million to demolish the 3D screen
A wealthy financier who claims a top architect promised him a home cinema with ‘wow factor’ but delivered a ‘disaster’ is now suing him for nearly £1m.
Philip Freeborn, 55, former head of operations at Barclays Capital, wanted a ‘sleek modernist cube’ floating in the leisure complex of his £7m home.
But what he got, he claims, was an unfinished eyesore and ‘expensive white elephant’ loathed by both him and his wife, Christina Goldie, 54.
Far from dramatically ‘floating’ in the roof space of their garden pool house, it rested on ‘ugly and conspicuous’ steel columns, he told the High Court.
The home cinema system in the £7m home of Philip Freeborn and Christina Goldie was commissioned as a ‘sleek modernist cube’ with ‘wow factor’ but is now considered an ‘expensive white elephant’ by the couple, who say it has an ‘industrial feel’
And they are so unhappy with its ‘industrial feel’, they say that demolition and re-building in their Totteridge home is the only option.
Now the couple are blaming rising young architect, Daniel Marcal, for their broken dream and are suing him for massive damages.
They are asking for £1million to recoup ‘wasted costs’, to demolish the installation, and to make good the building site.
Mr Marcal, however, denies all fault, insisting his role in the project was limited and the couple have no cause for complaint.
Robert Clay, for the couple, said they were inspired by Mr Marcal’s vision of a home cinema housed ‘in a glass box floating in the roof space’.
It was to be fitted with cutting-edge audio visual technology, but the design was heavily revised during the building works in 2014 and 2015, the court heard.
It remains incomplete to this day, said Mr Clay, but even in its near-final form its appearance came as an ‘unpleasant surprise’ to the couple.
Philip Freeborn, 55, former Barclays Capital head of operations, (pictured left) and his wife Christina Goldie, 54, (pictured right) ‘loathe’ the home cinema installed by architect Daniel Marcal in their £7m home in northwest London
The parents-of-two fiercely disliked the cinema’s ‘industrial feel’ and did not expect it to be supported by six solid columns.
‘The project went badly…the cinema as built is out of alignment and does not fit in the space,’ Mr Clay told Judge Martin Bowdery QC
‘It rests on ugly and conspicuous steel columns, and aesthetically it is unsatisfactory.
‘To remedy its deficiencies would require dismantling, demolishing and re-building,’ he added.
‘Most importantly, the architectural jewel which they thought they would obtain has turned out to be very different from their expectations. They do not like it and it is not at all what they expected.
‘Instead of a sleek modernist cube suspended over the hall, they find that the result is disappointing and has an industrial appearance.’
Mr Clay told the judge: ‘Altogether the project has been an expensive white elephant. The money they spent has been wasted.
‘Any work to remedy the defects – or to put the pool house back to what it was before – will involve extensive demolition and re-building.’
The couple cared about cost, Mr Clay explained, but they wanted a ‘high-end wow factor’, complete with deluxe plush seating.
The goal was to ‘create something architecturally striking and impressive’, he added.
And he told the judge: ‘Our case is that the project has been a disaster…the main reasons for that are failures of design, and a failure to agree the brief.
‘Project management issues have also contributed to it.’
But Mr Marcal insists he acted entirely competently and in line with his brief throughout and that the couple consistently approved the build.
Award-winning architect Mr Marcal insisted in court he acted entirely competently and said there were times he felt ‘intimidated’ by former Barclays banker Mr Freeborn
In the witness box, he said there were times when he felt under ‘an immense amount of pressure’ from Mr Freeborn, adding: ‘I felt intimidated by him’.
He disputed that either Mr Freeborn or Ms Goldie ever objected to the number of columns deployed in the project.
The couple say Mr Marcal agreed to ‘design and project manage the works’ and that was his role until their working relationship ended in 2016.
The architect, however, argues he was taken on for ‘a much more restricted range of services,’ carrying out much of his work on an ‘ad hoc’ basis.
The couple say they agreed a project which ended up being completely redesigned, but Mr Marcal’s barrister, Thomas Ogden, said this was ‘untenable’.
‘The design evolved for various reasons and those changes were explained and approved,’ he told the judge.
Mr Freeborn, currently Head of Banking at TORI Global, told the court: ‘We had discussed creating a floating cinema and how dramatic that would be.
‘I wasn’t expecting an industrial design which was not something we had ever asked for.’
He felt ‘bounced’ into accepting Mr Marcal’s final design, he told the judge.
‘I was promised something with the wow factor’ he said, adding that Mr Marcal had talked about it being a ‘fantastic project’ and wanting it for his portfolio.
Thomas Ogden, for Mr Marcal, denied that he had made grand promises about the build.
‘You don’t think your cinema has the wow factor, but some people might?’ he put to Mr Freeborn.
But the financier responded: ‘I think it would be quite unusual for people to consider that what’s been built here has the wow factor.’
Judge Bowdery will give his ruling on the case at a later date.
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