Marlon Blackwell Architects (MBA) opened a lawsuit to dispute unpaid fees over the design of the Saracen Resort Casino that's currently under construction in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. According to Arkansas Times, the firm filed a complaint this month against HBG Design, Saracen Development, and John Berrey, chairman of the Quapaw tribe’s business committee, citing copyright infringement, business interference, and breach of contract for their architectural design work on the project. As chair of architecture at the University of Arkansas, Blackwell was recently awarded the 2020 AIA Gold Medal for his influence in both architectural education and practice. According to the report, his studio designed a substantial amount of the project before HBG Design was brought on to assist. The Quapaws allegedly agreed to give Blackwell 35 percent of the architectural fee, but this agreement was not honored. Per the 55-page suit—which details Blackwell’s work on the project—the firm alleged that HGB and the Quapaw Nation stole MBA’s "copyright-protected architectural designs for that project, and refused to pay MBA what it is owed for its work on the project.” The suit further states that HBG had “poisoned” MBA’s relationship with the Quapaw Nation “by telling falsehoods," which caused the firm to be removed from the project. However, much of MBA’s designs were still used in blueprints without credit. In an interview with Arkansas Times, Berrey said MBA's work wasn't on par with the Quapaw tribe's goals. “We think Mr. Blackwell is a very talented boutique architect," he said. "But functionality and constructability were lost in our process. We had hoped he was able to mold our specific needs into a great expression of the history of the wonderful Pine Bluff community, but it became very clear he didn’t share our vision.” The casino is anticipated to open by June 1, 2020, and will feature a 300-room hotel, spa, restaurants, conference center, entertainment venue, as well as a museum and cultural center that will open in early 2021. A casino annex has already been completed and began serving guests this past September. AN reached out to Marlon Blackwell Architects for comment on the lawsuit and will update this article upon receiving a response.
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Earlier this month, Princeton University filed a $10.7 million lawsuit against the firms involved in the design and construction of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment due to “extensive changes and delays." According to The Daily Princetonian, the Trustees of Princeton University are suing Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects (TWBTA), the architecture firm responsible for the design, as well as Texas-based sub-consultants Jacob Entities for professional negligence and a breach of contract between the university and TWBTA. The Trustees allege that members of the design team “failed to perform their professional design responsibilities in accordance with the prevailing standard of care, resulting in unnecessary and excessive additional costs and expensive project delays.” The suit also lists a claim of “indemnification” which states that TWBTA must compensate the university "for costs relating to the design team’s negligence." Per the complaint, the university had contracted the firm to perform design services for the Center in February 2009. Construction began in 2012 and was completed in 2016, approximately 10 months behind schedule. The document also detailed that the architects and consultants issued 87 Architect’s Supplemental Instructions (ASI) between 2012 and 2017, which led to the issuance of 462 design-related Change Order Requests (COR) that were allegedly related to the team’s “errors and omissions." Seventeen of those were attributed to 3D modeling software issues and seven to design-team-caused delays. AN has reached out to TWBTA for comment on the suit and will update this article accordingly to the firm's response.
Nearly five months after a unanimous City Council vote in May to demolish San Diego’s postmodern Horton Plaza Mall and replace it with a mixed-use block tentatively named “The Campus at Horton,” a group of local politicians and business executives have urged Macy’s department store, one of three retailers at the mall, to reconsider a lawsuit that would prevent the demolition from taking place according to the San Diego Tribune. Earlier this month, Macy’s West Stores, Inc. had filed a lawsuit against Stockdale Capital Partners, the Los Angeles-based real estate investment firm that purchased the Jon Jerde-designed Horton Plaza Mall complex in August of last year, to slow down or halt the forthcoming conversion. The department store intends to halt the mall’s destruction by appealing to a San Diego Court judge, arguing that the developer’s plans to replace the complex with high-tech office space and rebrand the area violate Macy’s lease agreement. Additionally, Macy’s real estate executive Douglas Sesler wrote a letter to San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer confirming their desire to take legal action, according to the Tribune. “We’re eager to continue a productive dialogue in good faith,” wrote Sesler, “but we concluded that litigation was necessary to prevent further deterioration of our rights and, even worse, another potential non-starter in the history of Horton Plaza redevelopment proposals.” The lawsuit claims that repurposing the mall violates Macy's lease agreement as well as a reciprocal easement agreement they had signed, which gives the company veto power in the case of major property changes. Though portions of the mall’s one-million-square-foot interior have already been demolished as part of the original development schedule to complete the first phase of the tech campus by the end of next year, the project will be legally required to come to a standstill if the judge finds Macy’s claim to be substantial. If the conversion moves ahead as originally planned, the amount of retail space on-site would be slashed to 300,000 square feet, as office space would "float" above the street on top of first-floor retail podiums.
Ten domestic plywood producers have jointly filed a lawsuit against several U.S. certification agencies for falsely labeling ineffective imported panels from South America. The group, known as the U.S. Structural Plywood Integrity Coalition, claims that structural panels produced in Brazil are being fraudulently certified and stamped upon entry to the U.S. even though they don’t meet the country’s minimum requirements for stiffness and deflection (the amount it sags when under horizontal load). This isn’t a new issue: In June 2018, the nonprofit trade group APA - The Engineered Wood Association sent an advisory to all domestic manufacturers detailing the results of its own nearly year-long experiment testing the strength and structural integrity of imported panels from seven different Brazilian producers. Though all of their products were marked with the official stamp for Structural Plywood, known as U.S. Product Standard PS 1-09, they all failed to comply with federal regulations by large margins. Tyler Freres, vice president of sales at Freres Lumber Co. in Lyons, Oregon, said he’s seen the stamp on countless poor-quality panels with his own eyes, many of which were tested independently at Clemson University under the coalition’s purview. He told AN that even though the APA advisory went out to all U.S.-based companies, pressure hadn’t mounted enough in the last year to force the industry’s top certification firms, PFS TECO of Wisconsin, Timber Products Inspection of Georgia, and the International Accreditation Service of California, to stop the fraudulent labeling. “No one cared,” he said. Freres and the nine other plywood companies that make up the coalition are hoping to halt further shipments from Brazil and to educate U.S. contractors and homebuyers about the issue, which started in 2016 when both the U.S. dollar and housing market became stronger. At the same time, Brazil’s government began encouraging producers to ramp up their timber harvesting. “As consumers, we all need to be aware of where our products come from,” said Freres. “Wood materials should be produced in the most environmentally [sustainable] places possible and it’s no secret that South America is having huge problems with deforestation and illegal harvesting.” Freres is specifically talking about native North American wood species like loblolly pine, slash pine, and others that, for the last four years, have been planted and unnaturally grown in large-scale plantations on top of former rainforests. “The species grows so fast in Brazil,” he said, “that the density [of the wood fiber] isn’t sufficient for structural purposes.” Over the last two years, the amount of imported structural panels has grown to a total of 25 percent of the U.S. market, resulting in an oversaturated supply. Naturally, producers in the Pacific Northwest all the way down to the South have had to lower the number of panels they make, as well as the price, to compete with international imports. One member of the coalition, Gray Skipper from the Alabama-based Scotch Plywood Company, said many manufacturers have felt Brazil’s push to get its products into the hands of U.S. consumers. “We used to do a fair amount of business to Central and South Florida,” said Skipper. “It was about 20 percent of our product sales a decade ago. Now it’s something like one percent. Because of this, we’ve been focusing toward the Midwest and Northeastern markets but we’d like to be back in Southern Florida as soon as possible.” According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, much of the imported Brazilian plywood that’s been coming into the U.S. has landed in Florida. The material is used as roof and wall sheathing on residential and commercial buildings, and it’s extremely dangerous to build with in locations that are subject to extreme weather. The allegations laid out in the coalition’s lawsuit, a Lanham Act claim, suggest that a hurricane, high winds, or an earthquake could easily damage a home or cause deaths where these off-grade panels were used. Skipper said that he’s heard stories from builders who’ve have had to turn down the pressure of their nail guns when using the Brazilian panels because they are so much thinner than the U.S. product. Despite this, these falsely labeled panels are still being bought, which is why the coalition is looking for upwards of $300 million in its lawsuit against the three certification agencies. Freres said the group will continue to complete additional deflection testing, as well as full-scale wind testing, through Clemson and Oregon State University up until December in order to further build out its case. So far, two of the three firms have denied the allegations. In a September statement from Timber Products Inspection, the company's president said it has "extreme confidence in our processes" and that "clients in Brazil and elsewhere who do not consistently meet the applicable industry standard do no remain as TP clients."
After the revised scheme for David Chipperfield’s Nobel Center in Stockholm sailed through a city council vote in 2016, Sweden’s Land and Environment Court halted construction on the project on May 22. The $132 million complex was set to break ground on Stockholm’s Blasieholmen peninsula and would serve as a permanent home for all Nobel Prize ceremonies going forward. Chipperfield’s revised design, presented in 2016 to address concerns that the Nobel Center would be too large for the historically sensitive district in which it sits, would see two stacked boxes wrapped in vertical brass louvers dropped right on the waterfront. Although the project passed an additional vote by the Stockholm County Administrative Board last year, the ruling has put a hold on construction over the building's size, color, and sensitive location. The City of Stockholm will reportedly appeal the decision to a higher court. In ruling against the Center’s construction, the court wrote that the building would have a negative impact on the area’s cultural heritage, claiming it would “cause significant damage” to the district’s environment, and “would affect the readability of Stockholm's historical development as a port, shipping and trading city.” Inside, Chipperfield’s scheme for the Center is anchored by an large sunken stage overlooking the Klara Sjö canal, framed by an enormous double-height window bay. When Nobel Prizes aren’t being awarded, the building would be used to host lectures, science-related seminars, regular exhibitions, and other important ceremonies. While the project might be temporarily stalled out, Chipperfield Architects released a suite of new interior renderings right before the ruling came down. The new images reveal the Center’s finalized interior layout and a surprisingly stark choice of materials. The Center’s smaller footprint has necessitated a tighter layout, and from the renderings, it appears that the building will be precisely programmed, with circulation moving around a central void between floors. Chipperfield has chosen to use raw concrete and will keep the building’s structural elements exposed, from the floor joists over guests’ heads to the concrete columns that break up the circulation areas. Even the sunken theater appears to be paneled in precast concrete (no word on how that might affect the acoustic properties). AN will follow up on this story as the case proceeds.
Spanish architect Alejandro Zaera-Polo is filing a law suit against the current trustees of Princeton University, incumbent President Christopher L. Eisgruber, and Dean Kathleen Deignan. Founder of London and New York-based Alejandro Zaera-Polo & Maider Llaguno Architecture (AZPML), and Foreign Office Architects (now no longer practicing), Zaera-Polo is also the former dean of Princeton's School of Architecture.Eisgruber asked to Zaera-Polo to resign in 2014 after he allegedly did not credit work done by the university for his exhibition on facades and its catalog at that year's Venice Architecture Biennale, directed by Rem Koolhaas. [You can find coverage of the current 2016 Biennale here]
Now Zaera-Polo is claiming the university caused “substantial damage” to both his reputation and his firm, which subsequently led to him miss “lucrative and prestigious professional and academic opportunities.” According to BDOnline, Zaera-Polo alleges that President Christopher L. Eisgruber's insistence that he resign—which Zaera-Polo he described as “inexplicably urgent”—led to “false rumors of sexual or financial misconduct” being spread. “Moreover Eisgruber and Prentice acted prematurely, negligently and/or recklessly in a manner that seemingly confirmed the widespread, false, and damaging public rumors concerning [the] plaintiff," the papers read. "Defendants’ actions and failures to act have resulted in significant damage to plaintiff’s business and to his reputation, including the loss of lucrative and prestigious professional and academic opportunities." As a result, the Spanish architect is calling for “punitive damages” held against Eisgruber, Deborah Prentice (the current dean of the faculty), trustees, “John and Jane Does,” and 20 “other individuals who participated in, or were complicit with, the conduct complained of herein” (likely to be students and staff).The papers filed at Mercer County Court in Trenton, describe the event as “an action for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, tortious interference with prospective economic advantage, trade libel, and defamation.” In addition to this, Prentice reported the complaint to Koolhaas. Zaera-Polo, however, said that the work duly credited others in the footnotes of an academic version of the catalog. One anonymous source stated Zaera-Polo plagiarized Wikipedia. The papers also state: “Adding insult to injury, defendants have fostered a hostile environment toward plaintiff at Princeton. For example, Princeton relocated plaintiff to a shared office in a basement, contrary to Princeton’s policy granting full, senior professors individual offices, generally on the ground floor. Princeton hired an alternate lecturer on building facades (plaintiff’s expertise) and scheduled that course to conflict exactly with plaintiff’s course on the same subject. Princeton even failed to list plaintiff’s course in its course catalog during spring 2015.” Meanwhile Princeton University has said in a statement: “The university is aware that Professor Zaera-Polo has filed an action against it and others relating to the investigation and disposition of research misconduct claims asserted against him and to his resignation as Dean of the School of Architecture. As noted in the rules and procedures of the faculty, the ‘university is committed to high scholarly standards in the substance of research and to high ethical standards in the conduct of research’ and to the fair and unbiased adjudication of all misconduct complaints. “The university is confident that the officials and faculty members who investigated and adjudicated the claims against Professor Zaera-Polo did so fairly and in accordance with university policies and procedures. The university will defend its position in court, and looks forward to the successful resolution of these claims.”
Home builders and developers in Chicago have sued the city to block a tightening of its affordable housing laws, which were recently revamped to encourage more private development of units accessible to low-income residents. Hoyne Development and the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago say the longstanding Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO) violates the Fifth Amendment because it involves the taking of private property without "just compensation.” Earlier this year Chicago City Council voted to overhaul of the ARO, which compels private developers to build affordable housing or pay "in-lieu" fees. Those fees were too low, many argued, and resulted mostly in developers paying their way out of having to devote a substantial amount of new housing stock to affordable units. But in their suit the developers argue raising the fees could backfire by making $900 million in planned construction suddenly infeasible. The new ARO fees take effect October 13. As Brentin Mock writes for CityLab, the outcome of the case could affect similar proceedings in Los Angeles and New York, where so-called inclusionary-zoning plans are in the works.
Following lawsuit, Clemson University backs down on plans for a new architecture center in Charleston
For the second time in a decade, Clemson University has scrapped plans for a modern architecture center in Charleston’s historic district. Confronted with a lawsuit by neighborhoods and preservation groups, who objected to the addition of the glitzy, $10 million metal-and-glass building on George and Meeting streets, the university is seeking to lease temporary space in downtown Charleston. The approval process for the architecture center has seesawed since 2012, when residents decried the building as aesthetically unfit to rub shoulders with the stately George Street headquarters of Spoleto Festival USA. Arguably, the historic district is already a hodgepodge of stylistic eras—from Georgian to Federal to Greek Revival to Victorian. The architecture center's leased location has yet to be determined, but it will house the university’s locally-based architecture and historic preservation programs. Clemson’s Board of Trustees recently approved the plans for a temporary home to “better meet existing needs, anticipate planned growth and ensure that students in Charleston work in labs, studios and workshops that reflect contemporary standards of professional practice, a larger, more functional facility is required,” Clemson said. Currently, the historic preservation master’s degree program, which Clemson administers with the College of Charleston, and the Clemson Architecture Center are spread over three locations. According to the university, the interim leased space will be large enough to accommodate growth from a proposed new master’s degree program and the expansion of the specialized healthcare design track. The initially proposed architecture center (to be named the Spaulding Paolozzi Center) by nationally known architect Brad Cloepfil of Oregon-based Allied Works Architecture garnered some supporters at the 2012 Board of Architectural Review Meeting–including the director of preservation and museums at the Historic Charleston Foundation. But local residents showed the most antipathy during the public comments section of the meeting. Sculptor John Michel, offered perhaps the most outspoken take: “Why in the world do a bunch of Martians want to invade this city and put up a trap that looks like something that Walmart would build?”
Celebrated French architect Jean Nouvel lost a court case in which he sued the Philharmonie de Paris for removal of his name from the project due to major deviations from his original design. The court, which ruled in his favor on April 16 pending “additional detailed and comparative information,” reversed its decision hours later. The jury alleges that Nouvel failed to provide incriminating documentation to justify his claim that 26 parts of the 2,400-seat auditorium, whose January 15 inauguration he boycotted, had strayed from his design. These key elements include parapets, foyers, facades, promenades, and acoustic elements of the performance hall. The court said the documents he provided "do not allow the court to assess the work asked for in its definitive state, both globally and in detail," and the court was thus unable to rule whether the work had been "adulterated.” Nouvel also sued on the grounds that his firm, Ateliers Jean Nouvel, was not liable for the nearly doubled costs due to delays and allegedly radical departure from the design proposal.
One of the biggest architectural head-to-head matches of 2014 has come to an amicable end. As AN reported last fall, Zaha Hadid sued New York Review of Books critic Martin Filler for defamation for comments he made about her in a review of Rowan Moore’s Why We Build: Power and Desire in Architecture. In his piece, Filler knocked the starchitect's record on workers' rights, writing that an "estimated one thousand laborers” had died working on the Al Wakrah Stadium (above) she designed for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. As it turned out, construction on that project hadn't even started yet. Filler acknowledged his error and apologized. Now, Hadid has withdrawn her lawsuit and the two parties have settled out of court. While we don’t know the amount of the settlement, we do know that Hadid and Filler are making a donation to “a charitable organization that protects and champions labor rights.”
Zaha Hadid has sued the New York Review of Books. The complaint, filed last month in Manhattan Supreme Court, takes issue with a piece by architecture critic Martin Filler that allegedly mischaracterized her comments on the deaths of hundreds of migrant construction workers in Qatar, where she has designed a soccer stadium for the 2022 World Cup. According to Hadid’s lawyers, the article is a “personal attack disguised as a book review” of New York Observer architecture critic Rowan Moore’s Why We Build. It apparently quotes the Pritzker Prize winner as saying that architects “have nothing to do with the workers” and goes on to characterize her as being a generally uncaring and difficult person. The lawyers went on to point out that no workers have died on Hadid’s project, which, as a matter of fact, has yet to begin construction. The suit has stirred up quite a bit of activity on social media, including a tweet from Paul Goldberger, who said that the suit was unwise as it will earn Hadid a reputation as “the architect who sues critics.” The NYRB has since issued a retraction.
In a recent interview, Diller Scofidio + Renfro Senior Associate Kevin Rice told AN that the "veil" at Los Angeles' Broad Museum—a facade made of hundreds of molded Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete (GFRC) panels, had been delayed by over a year. "Some of the things took longer to make than they thought, but there aren’t really problems with it," Rice said. But now it looks like the issues with the museum's facade are more severe than initially thought. The LA Times has reported that the Broad Collection and contractor Matt Construction are suing Seele, the engineer of that facade, seeking $19.8 million in damages relating to the delay. Other damages, according to the complaint (PDF), include breach of contract, fraud in the inducement, and fraud and deceit. The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that Seele "violated the important 'aesthetic aspect' of the architect's design," and its mockups were "unsightly and wholly unacceptable for use on the project." As a result the firm was not able to meet its October, 2013 deadline to design, fabricate, and install the facade, setting the project's timeline way back. The Broad's lawsuit also names Zurich American Insurance Company and Fidelity and Deposit Company—backers of a bond guaranteeing Seele's work—as defendants. "Seele did not possess the necessary skill, experience, resources, commitment or ability to perform the work at The Broad museum," the complaint stated. Broad Foundation spokesperson Karen Denne told AN, "we're not commenting—the lawsuit speaks for itself." As of now the museum is still set to open in 2015, but the exact date remains up in the air.