From plagiarism to malpractice, believe it or not, many famous architects have faced litigation issues once or more in their lives. No matter how many years have passed after a building’s construction, the architect remains under question if anything went amiss. In Illinois, USA, the architect of a prison faced a lawsuit because an inmate committed suicide and the prison wasn’t designed to be “suicide-proof”!
Win or lose, this will tarnish the reputation of the firm, no matter how renowned it may be, and drive away clients. This forced many architects to protect themselves and their firms, big or small, against such claims via liability insurance which is now a major budget item in most architectural practices. Here are some of the most notorious cases filed against prominent architects.
1. Palacio de Exposiciones y Congresos Ciudad – Oviedo, Spain
This spectacular shopping mall and government office block, designed by Santiago Calatrava, had an unfortunate incident while it was still under construction. A part of the building collapsed which led to the delaying of the project and a court verdict ordering the firm to pay over $4 million for the damages.
2. Johnson Museum Extension – Ithaca, New York, USA
The malpractice lawsuit against Pei Cobb Freed and Partners, filed by Cornell University, resulted in the architecture firm, founded by celebrated architects I. M. Pei and Henry N. Cobb, shelling out $1.1 million. Although in 1972, the firm had also designed the original brutalist wing of the museum, the university was dissatisfied with the faulty expansion scheme. It was claimed that the structural deficiencies, among other flaws like cavities in the roof and cracks in the ceiling, could damage the existing artwork inside the building.
3. Ray and Maria Stata Center – Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
Although Frank Gehry was more than pleased with the Stata Center design for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), people from the institute were not pleased at all. The building had multiple issues from mold to rampant leaks and plumbing issues. The flaws were traced back to the irregular design and the harsh freeze/thaw climate of Boston. The case MIT filed against Gehry’s firm was settled in 2010 after the flaws of the building were repaired.
4. Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall – Cosa Mesa, California, USA
Although the Orange County Performing Arts Center were satisfied with the overall outcome of the concert hall design, they had certain reservations. Some sight lines not directed to the stage, inadequately designed seating, and surpassing the budget by $40 million were the main concerns. The center eventually won the lawsuit against both the Cesar Pelli architecture firm and the construction firm Fluor Corp.
5. Harmon Tower – Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
This glass-cladded building was Norman Foster’s first project in Las Vegas. The building which was supposed to be 49-storey-high stopped at the 28th floor after realizing that the steel rebar had been improperly installed in 15 stories. Foster’s firm paid a total of $400 million to the client, complying with the court orders. The building that served as a billboard for MGM was torn down in 2015.
6. Farnsworth House – Plano, Illinois, USA
Mies Van De Rohe’s pristine design of this summer house didn’t go very well after he exceeded the appointed budget of the project. Mies filed a non-payment lawsuit against the owner, Dr.Edith Fransworth, who in return filed a malpractice lawsuit against him. A movie about this drama is now in the process starring Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Although the architect won the case, the negative publicity affected him badly.