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Legal row hits Israeli National Library

Israeli architect fights back after being ousted from prestigious national scheme and attacked over design copyright and for ‘leftist’ political views

Israeli architect Rafi Segal has launched a legal challenge after being ousted from the high-profile job to design a national library in Jerusalem.

Segal hopes the court will reinstate him as winner of the competition following a copyright row and an attack by local politicians on Segal’s political views.

Organisers of the international competition - whose longlist included Chipperfield and Shigeru Ban - terminated Segal’s appointment in December just months after he was trumpeted as ‘preferred architect’ for the National Library. The National Library Construction Company claimed Segal was ‘unable
to create conditions which would enable concluding an agreement with him’, announcing the process of selecting an architect had been resumed.

The surprise disqualification came after one of Segal’s former colleagues at the Harvard School of Design, Bing Wang, whose company also worked on the
competition entry, challenged the architects’ ownership of the winning design (pictured). Segal said: ‘The organisers said there were doubts as to my authorship and rights to the design and I was not able to remove that doubt. So they decided not to proceed with the project.’

Planning lecturer Wang complained that the announcement about the winner failed to credit her company, HyperBina, for its role in the bid. Wang argued her
company’s staff worked on the competition entry and, therefore, under American law the company owned the work they produced.

Segal said that the official announcement omitted HyperBina and he intended to credit the full design team when he had permission to publicise the win
himself. ‘Wang was part of the team but not the creative author of the scheme,’ said Segal. ‘I wasn’t given the chance to prove I own the copyright. That’s why
I have to go to court to prove I own it.’ The project’s design fee was worth $2.5 million.

Writing in Haaretz, Esther Zandberg argued Segal was booted off because of his ‘leftist’ opinions. Prior to his disqualification, Yair Gabbay of the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee threatened to block the scheme because an essay by Segal 10 years ago criticised Israeli settlement on the West Bank.

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