Architect claims NY's One World Trade Center stole his design

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Korean-born architect on Wednesday sued a major architecture firm over the design of Manhattan’s One World Trade Center, claiming that the building bears a “striking similarity” to a tower he designed in 1999 while in graduate school.

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Jeehoon Park accused Skidmore, Owings & Merrill of falsely claiming design credit for the 104-story One World Trade Center, whose 1,776-foot (541 m) height including the spire makes it the Western Hemisphere’s tallest building.

Now president of Qube Architecture LLC in Suwanee, Georgia, Park said in the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Manhattan, that One World Trade Center, which opened in November 2014, copies his 122-story “Cityfront ‘99,” whose cross-sections also feature narrow upright and inverted triangle shapes.

Park, a naturalized U.S. citizen, said he registered Cityfront ‘99 with the U.S. Copyright Office on May 9.

He is seeking unspecified damages, including for alleged harm to his architectural practice, plus credit for the design he said inspired One World Trade Center.

Other defendants include entities controlled by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which developed the property, and building contractor Tishman Construction Co.

Skidmore did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Spokesmen for the Port Authority and Tishman declined to comment.

Park, who received an engineering degree in Seoul, said he created Cityfront ‘99 while getting his master’s degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

He said Skidmore had access to the design through an associate partner who was one of his thesis advisers, and through its display in the school’s lobby.

Park also said Cityfront ‘99 appeared in a scene from the 2006 movie “The Lake House,” starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, which was filmed in the lobby of a Chicago building where Skidmore had an office.

“He just wants to be treated fairly,” Dan Kent, a lawyer for Park, said.

“Our client frankly didn’t know what his legal rights were until he came to us,” Kent added. “We believe we are well within any statutes of limitations, and that the wrongful conduct is ongoing.”

The case is Park v Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 17-04473.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler