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Ground Zero Tower in plagiarism lawsuit

12 November 2004

Probably the most prestigious and controversial architecture project in the world, the ‘Freedom Tower’ destined for New York’s Ground Zero site, received a major setback this week when its architects were formally accused of plagiarism.

Newsday reports that Thomas Shine, of Brookline Massachusetts, was a student on the prestigious Yale University architecture programme when his work was assessed by David Childs, of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, a main partner behind the design of the Freedom Tower (along with the celebrated architect Daniel Libeskind. Shine alleges that the Freedom Tower blueprints bear a remarkable resemblance to two of his own designs featuring a twisting structural grid and a textured facade, devised for a college project concerning the proposed 2012 Olympic Games in New York.

According to the lawsuit, an annual Yale School of Architecture magazine featuring selected student works included images of Shine's Olympic Tower with a comment by Childs: "It is a very beautiful shape. You took the skin and developed it around the form - great!"

The lawsuit alleges that the design for the Freedom Tower shown to the public in December 2003 incorporated a structural grid identical to Shine's Olympic Tower. It states that the Freedom Tower's facade is "strikingly similar" to the Olympic Tower design, and formally accused Childs of stealing the student designs. Shine is seeking ‘unspecified damages’, but it is currently uncertain as to whether building work, which started last week, will be halted. The case continues.

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