Litigating architects; a real trend. Take architect Fons Verheijen for instance, who fought the renovation of ‘his’ Naturalis in court for two years. In a remarkable interim ruling the judge found that the renovation – necessary to accommodate the increase in visitors – constituted an infringement of the personality rights of the architect. These are certain rights a maker enjoys, to protect his reputation. One of these rights is the right of the maker to oppose deformities, mutilations or other harm done to his work, which are considered so terrible that they drag his honour and good name through the mud. The judge also announced that, in her final verdict, she would address the consequences this would have for the renovation. In the meantime, Naturalis happily kept on renovating.
Verheijen saw the writing on the wall and foresaw his building being ruined by the time the judge made her ruling regarding the renovation. To counter this, he initiated a new court case, this time interim proceedings. The judge ruled in Verheijen’s favour and prohibited Naturalis from renovating while the final verdict was still pending. Tough for Naturalis, which indicated that chances were very real that the prohibition to renovate would lead to its bankruptcy. To prevent this scenario, Naturalis and Verheijen reached a settlement, which cost Naturalis dearly. For € 1,5 million Verheijen could live with the fact that his building would be tampered with. Verheijen indicated to transfer this money into a foundation, yet to be established by him, that would champion scientific research into architecture. Furthermore, Naturalis would furbish a virtual museum where Verheijen’s Naturalis could still be admired by the public. All’s well that ends well…
The architects’ firm Alberts & Van Huut was less successful. They went to court (see, trend!) to fight the partial demolition of the office park ‘De Bovenlanden’ in Amstelveen (former KPMG-building), designed by them. A German investment firm wanted to transform the immense office building into luxury apartments. To make this happen, the front of the building was destined to change, among other things. In this case as well, the architects referred to their personality rights.
Looking at the renovation plans, this was definitely the case, according to the architects. Whereas their building was an example of “organic architecture, where connection to the earth was an important notion” and thus “part of nature”, in the new design “the architecture is understood as contrasting to nature”, the architects argued. The judge disagreed. He found that this was not a renovation, but rather total destruction. And for that different rules apply. It is determined by jurisprudence that total destruction of a building does not qualify as deformation of the design, hence the architect cannot simply refer to personality rights. And that’s exactly where the difference with the Naturalis case lies; there, not enough was being destroyed to qualify as total destruction.
So, sadly for our KPMG-architects, the Germans were more radical, and referring to their personality rights did not help.
This blog is written by Jaap Versteeg and Merel Teunissen