Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas has been cleared of plagiarism after an eight-year legal battle. The Pritzker Prize winner is now considering ways to recover his £500,000 costs - which could include legal action against the expert witness for the case.
In a decision handed down last Friday in the High Court, Mr Justice Jacob found there was 'no foundation whatsoever' for claims that Koolhaas 'surreptitiously and dishonestly' stole drawings from former employee and student Gareth Pearce.
Pearce claims that in 1986 Koolhaas secretly photocopied his plans for Docklands Town Hall and incorporated elements from them in the Kunsthal art gallery building in Rotterdam.
In his unequivocal report, the judge concluded:
'The case has no foundation whatsoever. It is one of pure fantasy - preposterous fantasy at that - the Kunsthal owes nothing to the claimant.'
After the trial, Koolhaas expressed 'relief ' at the decision, saying the long-running battle had been 'upsetting'. He said it was evident from the beginning that Pearce 'never had a clear case' but refused to speculate on the motivation driving his accuser.
Koolhaas is now focused on recovering the substantial costs that have accrued, which experts estimate at £500,000. Since Pearce received legal aid funding for his £290,000 fees he cannot be held liable for the defence's costs. A trial insider confirmed that lawyers for Koolhaas are considering three alternative options. They have suggested that they may sue the legal services commission (formerly the legal aid board), Pearce's solicitors or his expert witness Michael Wilkey.
Although Koolhaas refused to discuss details until an announcement is made, he hinted: 'Look at the verdict - it's not flattering towards the expert.'
Architectural expert Wilkey, partner of London-based Royce Butterfield and Wilkey, comes in for damning criticism from Justice Jacob. In an astonishing attack, the judge finds that he 'failed in his duty to the court' and recommends Wilkey's conduct be referred to the RIBA for appropriate sanction. 'Mr Wilkey bears a heavy responsibility for this case ever coming to trial - with its attendant cost, expense and waste of time, including Mr Koolhaas' loss of professional time, ' he said.
Wilkey, whose opinion was supported by a second expert Frederick Hill, disputed suggestions that the case should never have come to court.
Speaking after the judgment, Pearce spoke of his 'shock' and 'anger' at the outcome, but ruled out an appeal. 'I'm exhausted, ' he said.
See AJ Plus for images of the scheme.