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Architect Wins Suit over Design Changes

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

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A museum architect’s intellectual-property rights were violated by an expansion project that altered his original design, a French court has ruled in awarding damages to the architect.

Henri Ciriani, 76, was awarded €30,000 (about $40,300) from a civil court in Marseille after the owners of the Arles Archaeological Museum added on to the structure in 2011 without his consent, according to a report in Building Design.

Altering Without Consent

The court said that the modern, triangular, ceramic-clad museum in Arles, France, was “well known” as the work of the architect and that Ciriani had a “right to be consulted about any alterations,” the report said.

Arles Archaelogical Museum
MM / Wikimedia Commons

Owners of the Archaeological Museum in Arles, France, will pay thousands to the architect who designed the building in 1984, after expanding the building in 2011 without his consent.

The rectilinear “box” addition, now near completion, makes room for a recently discovered Roman artifact, the report relates.

“It is clear from the evidence that the extension of the museum … was done without the consent and participation of Mr. Ciriani,” the report said, citing the court.

Ciriani, a French architect of Peruvian descent, designed the museum in 1984 and it opened in 1995.

Museum plan
www.arles-antique.cg13.fr

The original triangular shape of the museum has been altered with a rectilinear "box" in one of the structure's corners.

Evidence presented to the court indicated that the owners had attempted unsuccessfully to contact the architect before the expansion project, the report said. The architect said he found out about the construction after it had already begun.

The museum’s website celebrates the structure's triangular-shaped design, saying it “symbolically incarnates” the transmission and presentation of collections to the public.

Colleagues ‘Appalled’

Many members of the architectural community have spoken out against the addition and in favor of protecting the original design.

Henri Ciriani
Marcela777 / Wikimedia Commons

A colleague said Henri Ciriani was "extremely upset" after he found out about the addition to one of his works.

“It’s an appalling piece of work. It’s been done totally ineptly,” Allen Cunningham, former head of the University of Westminster’s School of Architecture and editor of The Journal of Architecture, told Building Design.

“Henri is extremely upset because it’s one of his major works and is a monument historique. What they’ve done destroys the harmony of the riverside facade."

The legal award is “a Pyrrhic victory," said Cunningham. "The money is a drop in the ocean to the [owners], so they probably think they’ve come out of it pretty well.”

The court did not order the addition torn down.

The French National Council of the Order of Architects, which gave evidence to the court “on behalf of the profession,” was also awarded €1,500 for expenses, according to the report.

Zaha Hadid Case in China

Chinese courts will also soon face the question of architects’ intellectual-property rights. Zaha Hadid Architects has filed suit against a Chinese developer for allegedly replicating one of the famed firm’s designs.

Developer Meiquan 22nd is constructing a building in Chongqing, China, that shares “distinctive round contours and white stripes of a 39-floor shopping and office complex conceived by the British-Iraqi designer and being built in Beijing,” according to a report in the New York Daily News.

The developer denies any wrongdoing; however, reports allude to the possibility that some digital files or renderings of Hadid’s project may have been snatched.

Such accusations "do not conform with the truth" and "have had a negative impact" on the company, Yao Yumao, general manager of Meiquan 22nd, reportedly said in a press conference.

To learn more about architects’ intellectual property and copyright of architectural works in the United States, the American Institute of Architects offers this information.

   

Tagged categories: Architecture; Building design; Design; Laws and litigation

Comment from Joseph Berchenko, (1/30/2013, 9:22 AM)

Architects in France have a “right to be consulted about any alterations” to a building they designed 30 years previously??? Wow.


Comment from Michael Bird, (1/30/2013, 11:26 AM)

Was Wright was consulted about the addition to the Guggenheim? This is great for Ciriani but doubt he would have been successful had it been in USA.


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