Designers of Freedom Tower Hit With Copyright Action

A federal complaint against the designers and contractors behind New York’s Freedom Tower says the structure at One World Trade infringes the copyright of a building published by an architect in his 1999 graduate-studies thesis. Filed on June 14 in Manhattan, the complaint includes this side-by-side comparison image of the two structures. (Image via Courthouse News Service)

MANHATTAN (CN) – A South Korea-born architect who designed a building strikingly similar to New York’s Freedom Tower for his 1999 graduate thesis brought a federal complaint Wednesday for copyright infringement.

Describing how the architects behind One World Trade Center would have gotten access to his work, Georgia-based Jeehoon Park notes that one of his thesis advisors at the Illinois Institute of Technology was an associate partner with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

After the Twin Towers were demolished in the 9/11 terror attack, Skidmore Owings provided architectural services for One WTC, and Park notes that the firm takes credit for the building’s design, despite striking similarities to the 122-story edifice he envisioned over a decade earlier, gracing the Chicago skyline.

Both towers share a tapered, truncated pyramid shape, which Park noted in his thesis “presents a rich sequence of form that changes with the view’s position.”

If the two designs are familiar, said Skidmore Owings spokeswoman Elizabeth Harrison Kubany, it’s because the geometric form of the 104-story One World Trade Center is “simple and iconic.”

“This lawsuit feels like an attempt to get attention or money and we are certain this claim will be found to be baseless,” Kubany said in an email.

The spokeswoman also questioned why it took so long for Park to sue.

“One World Trade Center is arguably the highest profile project built in the world in recent memory, and these types of projects often attract people who deceptively claim ownership of the design,” Kubany said in an email. “This lawsuit … is particularly suspect, because he is filing suit in June of 2017 about a design that was first unveiled publicly in June 2005 and that was completed and leased in 2013.” 

Tishman Construction Corp., which acted as construction manager of the One WTC project, declined to comment on Park’s lawsuit.

Park’s complaint, filed on Wednesday in New York’s Southern District, says his Cityfront ’99 thesis was displayed until at least 2005 in the lobby outside the library and high-rise studio of the Illinois Institute of Technology’s architecture school.

The building model also appeared twice in “The Lake House,” a 2006 film starring Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reaves.

Park, who immigrated to the United States in 1993 from South Korea, wrote in his thesis that the tower “is designed to call attention to itself, to actively participate in the skyline.”

A U.S. citizen since 2014, Park notes that Skidmore Owings was asked to work on the World Trade Center project after Daniel Libeskind won a competition for the Freedom Tower design.

Seeking damages for 11 counts of copyright infringement and false advertising, Park is represented by Daniel Kent of Kent & Risley in Alpharetta, Georgia.

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