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Architect Says Revamp ‘Mutilates’ Design

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

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A Dutch architect has hit a natural-history museum with a lawsuit, saying a planned renovation will “mutilate” his design.

Fons Verheijen, of VVKH Architecten, claims that new renovation and extension plans for the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, Netherlands, destroy his original 1998 design for the building and infringes on his intellectual-property rights, according to news reports.

Naturlis Museum
Vysotsky / Wikimedia Commons

Architect Fons Verheijen claims that plans to expand the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, Netherlands, destroy his original 1998 design. He has filed a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement.

“They’re mutilating the building,” Verheijen told NL Times. “Somebody who creates art cannot have their work mutilated. Transforming my exhibition space into a storage space is mutilation.”

Expansion Plans

The new expansion—designed by Rotterdam architecture firm Neutelings Riedijk—makes room for collections from the Zoological Museum and National Herbarium of the Netherlands.

The design accommodates the new collections with a newly built structure for exhibition space and new outdoor spaces while using existing exhibition space for storage and offices, according to project details.  A new central lobby will connect the two buildings and will become the main entrance to the center.

“My building is of a high architectural quality; it should not be used for storage,” Verheijen told the NL Times.

Neutelings Riedijk

The designer for the expansion project, Michiel Riedijk, says the plans "articulate" the original architect's design rather than inflict "injustice" to it.

Verheijen says his original concept was designed to be flexible and is not outdated, news outlets report.

He recommends that the museum build an extension onto its current space for the office and storage requirements. “I’m not against another architect designing that,” he said, according to the report.

Director Comments

The museum director Edwin House told de Volkskrant that it’s “too bad” the architect feels hurt by the expansion, but he remains proud of the plans.

“Inside, [the] old building will get another function; outside, [it] remains intact,” House told the news outlet [translated].

Museum officials expect the new complex to move forward, reports say.

A Client’s Right

Michiel Riedijk, the designer for the expansion project, says that he can understand Verheijen’s beef, but that the client  has “the right to make modifications to a building.”

“Our work is a product and not an autonomous work of art, such as a painting,” he told de Volkskrant.

“We are articulating his design, rather than inflicting an injustice to it.”

‘I Think I’ll Win’

Verheijen, however, says his case against the museum is solid, and he expects a favorable outcome.

“I think I’ll win,” he told NL Times, noting that Dutch copyright law recognizes and respects the relationship between creators and their products.

Naturalis Biodiversity Center

The museum is considered one of the top five natural-history museums in the world, hosting a collection of 37 million objects. It has a need to expand to accommodate collections from the Zoological Museum and National Herbarium of the Netherlands.

He aims to force the museum to scrap its current plans. He also alleges that the museum expansion is against the law because it "wastes" 20 million Euros ($22 million USD) in public funding.

The Naturalis has not commented on the price of the construction and renovation.

The museum is considered one of the top five natural-history museums in the world, hosting a collection of 37 million objects, according to Neutelings Riedijk.

French Ruling

Verheijen’s case echoes a recent dispute in France, where a court ruled that a museum architect’s intellectual-property rights were violated by an expansion project.

That case involved architect Henri Ciriani and his 1984 Arles Archaeological Museum design.

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

The architect was awarded €30,000 (about $40,300), but the addition, completed in 2011, remains intact.

To learn more about architects’ intellectual property and copyright of architectural works in the United States, see “The 10 Things You Must Know About Architectural Copyright,” on Archdaily.com.



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

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (2/24/2015, 10:19 AM)

The outside of the original "design" looks like simplistic Brutalist crap from 1965 to my eye, not a 1998 design. It looks to me like it should be storage, or a bland office building - not exhibit space of a leading museum.

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