Swiss stars added to list of respondents in high court claim to competition award brought by Israeli architect ousted from prestigious library scheme
Pritzker Prize-winning practice Herzog & de Meuron faces a courtroom showdown with New Jersey-based Rafi Segal to decide who will design the National Library of Israel.
A judge at the Municipal Court of Jerusalem has ordered that the Basel-headquartered practice be added as a respondent in a claim brought by Segal over the project.
Israeli architect Segal was chosen in September 2012 as the preferred architect for the prestigious scheme. But the National Library Construction Company (NLCC) cancelled his appointment later that year after finding ‘deficiencies’ in his proposal (visualisation, pictured).
In March 2013, the client launched a fresh contest to design a new home for the 120-year-old Jerusalem library and in April appointed Herzog & de Meuron.
However, in May the Municipal Court of Jerusalem heard a case brought by Segal, in which the architect demanded to be reinstated as winner of the competition. Segal’s disqualification came after former Harvard School of Design colleague Bing Wang, whose company, HyperBina, worked with the Israeli on his library proposal, challenged his ownership of the winning design.
Segal’s lawyer, Yehuda Ressler, told the judge at the May hearing that Segal’s designs had won the contest anonymously. Ressler told the hearing: ‘Segal came up with the idea and made drawings on his own more than a year ago.’
The NLCC said several documents showed Segal had partnered on his library proposal with architects ‘which were not allowed to participate in the competition’. Certain phases of the contest were open to Israeli architects only – Wang is not an Israeli national.
Judge Gila Knafi-Steinitz approved a bid by Segal’s lawyers to add Herzog & de Meuron as a respondent in the case. The judge said the corrected claim should be served to all respondents – Herzog & de Meuron, the NLCC and HyperBina – by 1 June. A further preliminary hearing takes place in September.
Herzog& de Meuron declined to comment. But the NLCC said in a statement that the Swiss practice was under no obligation to defend its award
Full National Library Construction Company response
‘Rafi Segal, whose competition entry was disqualified for failure to meet the terms of the competition and who was therefore removed from being the “preferred architect”, is now trying to compel his selection through the courts. Notwithstanding his failure to meet the conditions of the competition by way of establishing his full and exclusive rights in and to the plan he submitted, and having conducted himself in ways that have resulted in his loss of credibility in the eyes of the client.
‘In December 2012, The Jerusalem District Court denied his request for an ex parte temporary injunction barring the selection of another architect for the project. The evening before the date of the hearing on the request for an injunction, Segal withdrew his petition – following submission of the Company’s reply. Segal also filed a lawsuit asking the Court to declare him the “Winning Architect”. The court denied Segal’s requests to expedite the process and set a preliminary hearing for May 2013.
‘In April, following a three months process, an international selection panel chaired by Prof. Luis Fernandez-Galiano, selected the 2011 Pritzker Prize winners Herzog & de Meuron to design the new Library building.
‘In the preliminary hearing on 8 May, Segal asked to add Herzog & de Meuron as a respondent in what seems to be an attempt not to lose legal grounds for his claim. Herzog & de Meuron have no involvement in the saga and have no obligation to defend their award.’