The architecture firm that designed a proposed 25-story office tower on the waterfront in West Palm Beach frequently is lauded as the designer of the Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center in New York.
Now Georgia architect Jeehoon Park has sued the Skidmore, Owings & Merrill architecture firm, claiming it stole the One World Trade Center design from his master’s thesis.
The lawsuit was filed June 14 in U.S. District Court in New York.
Skidmore Owings is the same firm hired by New York’s The Related Cos. to design One Flagler, an office tower proposed on land next to the First Church of Christ, Scientist.
The land is zoned for only five stories, but Related wants to build 25 stories on the site, at Flagler Drive and Lakeview Avenue.
Some city residents, many of whom live downtown, don’t like the tower proposal. They say the tower is too tall, will worsen traffic, will block some of their views and will forever ruin the city’s waterfront.
But Related and its team have staged numerous city and community meetings to showcase the project and its benefits to the community. They say the deal will give the church money to preserve its 1928 building, plus create new space for companies seeking to relocate to the city.
During these presentations, the tower’s architect, David Childs, is extolled, his work as the architect for the Freedom Tower figuring prominently into the discussions.
In fact, Childs himself appeared before the Economic Forum business group in February to discuss Related’s office tower. “This is a special project,” Childs said. He stressed that he took care to design a building that would stand beside the church and “waltz together.”
In his lawsuit, Park said Skidmore, Owens violated his copyright on a design developed for his master’s thesis. An associate partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill was one of Park’s thesis advisors, according to the complaint.
Neither Childs nor the associate partner is named in the complaint.
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill was dismissive of the lawsuit, which it noted was filed 12 years after the design and four years after the building’s construction. “This lawsuit feels like an attempt to get attention or money, and we are certain this claim will be found to be baseless,” a firm spokeswoman told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.
A Park lawyer has said his client only recently became aware of his legal rights.