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Toy story

Leisure developments Legoland Deutschland: An opening date nearly a year earlier than scheduled did not phase the consultant designing the new Legoland in Germany. Judith Cruickshank reports from Bavaria

You are a medium sized, well respected, consultancy and you are a few months into the design stage of your first contract with a major new international client. Then your client informs you that a year is being cut from the construction programme. This is around the end of August 2000, and completion will now be in May 2002, rather than the original date of April 2003. How do you react?

Well, if you are the ClarkeBondSymonds JV, the recipient of this bombshell, you immediately set about finding the resources to cope with the new deadline. ClarkeBond civil engineering (CBCE) director and project coordinator David Williams is, however, prepared to admit that 'we swallowed hard'.

The client driving this accelerated programme is Legoland Developments, the arm of the famous Danish toy building brick company which is responsible for building theme parks.

The project is Legoland Deutschland, an investment of more than $145M, under construction near the Bavarian city of Gunzburg in southern Germany, close to the A8 autobahn.

Legoland Deutschland will be the largest of the four Lego theme parks (Billund in Denmark, Windsor and Carlsbad in California are the other three) and is likely to set the pattern for future developments.

The site is a former Army munitions testing area, acquired from the local government for a token sum. Prior to being handed over to Lego, the site underwent full decontamination.

Before construction of the park structures could begin, the site had to be levelled. The slope down from a bank of trees at the far end of the site towards the entrance was regarded as too steep for this kind of theme park and could not be negotiated by the train which will carry visitors, explains Paul Murgatroyd, engineer seconded to the Lego team from CBCE to act as construction manager for the civils and structures elements of the project.

Nor was it simply a question of straightforward muckshifting.

The material was of poor quality, needing extensive stabilisation with lime for the car parks and inner park area and cement for the areas where the buildings would stand.

The new deadline prompted an accelerated design programme with the designs approved by the client and the local German authorities. The lead consultant for Legoland Deutschland is Toronto-based architectural practice Forrec, which specialises in theme parks.

Williams defines the particular skills ClarkeBond brings to a project as 'team-building', and these skills have certainly been fully extended. CBCE has the project management and structural and civil engineering skills required, but theme parks require a substantial element of mechanical and electrical engineering. So consultant Symonds was brought on board and the two operate in joint venture as ClarkeBondSymonds with CBCE in the lead role.

Design development was carried out at Legoland Developments' headquarters in Carlsbad, California. Traffic between the UK, Germany, Toronto and California was already heavy before the project programme was slashed. It promptly stepped up several more gears.

'We used every modern method to exchange information and drawings, ' Williams recalls, 'teleconferencing, websites, the Lego extranet and more than a few air miles.'

Once the concept design was completed, it was taken to ClarkeBond's UK offices in Bristol where development continued until the end of 2000.

It then moved on to Germany to the offices of consultant Kling Consult, which was charged with producing local construction documentation, ensuring conformity with German codes and getting the necessary approvals.

Meanwhile, Murgatroyd was in Gunzburg supervising the enabling works under a contract let to a local German contractor by Legoland Developments, acting as project director.

Altogether, around 500,000t of material was moved and treated, with a 7m deep cut at the far end of the site and 3m of stabilised fill at the end nearest the entrance and car parks. There was also a small amount of contaminated material to be dealt with.

The original design would have left around 150,000m 3ofsurplus material, but by using some material to form an acoustic barrier at the back of the site, a balanced excavation was achieved, Murgatroyd reports. It was vital that this stage of the project was completed before the onset of the winter weather which leaves Bavaria coated with snow.

In fact, to allow work to continue in all weathers, large areas of the prepared site were immediately covered with a 50mm layer of asphalt.

The project has involved around 150 packages and a variety of nationalities. The Munich office of Bovis Lend Lease was brought on to the team in late autumn 2000 to provide local construction management services.

The inner park falls into seven areas which were tackled in a clockwise sequence throughout last year, so that by early December the shape of the complex was clear. Lego models have been installed in some areas, although still in their protective wrapping. Temporary structures and heaters also allow concreteing to continue even during snowfalls.

There were still some surprises to come, however. A 60m tall observation tower was added to the package last summer and this meant dewatering and the construction of a piled foundation. Dewatering was also required in the area of the flume, probably the most complex structure in the park.

This water ride, which winds around a seemingly natural rock outcrop, was rescheduled and a request for extra design resources made during a conference call one Friday afternoon in early 2000. A design team was on a plane on the Monday morning traveling to inspect the model from which they had to establish the grid on and through which the ride would travel.

Five people working six or seven days a week from February to May 2000 designed the complex steel structure.

And the client requires more than speed. Quality is paramount. The finish on the concrete on the flume interior is as perfect as that to be found in any of the public areas. Contractors failing to maintain quality or scheduling are politely but firmly reminded of Legoland's requirements, says Murgatroyd.

But although everyone is aware of the inflexible 17 May opening date, there seems to be little tension. Relationships are good and meetings are kept to a minimum. 'We talk to each other, ' Murgatroyd explains.

Perhaps the atmosphere is best captured in the office of project directors Ian Sarjeant and Richard Sindelar. Uncluttered and efficient, its two most noticeable features are Sindelar's Boxer dog Einstein, clearly a favourite of everyone connected with the project, and a large basket of sweets, which by the end of the day is empty.

'This is meant to be a place where people come to have fun.

We reckon we should have fun building it, ' says Sindelar.

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