Dezeen Magazine

Alejandro Zaera-Polo

Princeton accuses former architecture dean of making "inaccurate" plagiarism statement

Princeton University has accused its former architecture dean Alejandro Zaera-Polo of making an "inaccurate and incomplete" statement about the plagiarism row that led to his resignation last year.

The university claimed that Zaera-Polo, who stepped down as head of its School of Architecture in October 2014, was asked to leave because he appeared to be "unfamiliar with the university's policies on plagiarism and that he may have directed his collaborators to breach the rules of the university."

Princeton issued the response after Zaero-Polo published a "clarifying statement" earlier this week, in which he set out the reasons behind his resignation.

Zaera-Polo claimed he was asked to step down by Christopher Eisgruber, president of the New Jersey university, after the Spanish architect admitted he had removed citations from texts he prepared for the Elements of Architecture exhibition at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, and the related catalogue.

His statement – designed to address the "grotesque rumours" about the circumstances of his departure – was accompanied by a copy of an email of support from biennale curator Rem Koolhaas, who accused the university of making a "category error" by expecting Zaera-Polo to follow academic protocols when writing text for a public exhibition.

The full statement from Princeton read: "While we normally do not comment on personnel matters, we do need to point out that Professor Zaero-Polo’s statement regarding the circumstances surrounding his resignation as dean of the School of Architecture is inaccurate and incomplete.

"He was asked to step down in large measure because of statements he made in writing that indicated he was unfamiliar with the university’s policies on plagiarism and that he may have directed his collaborators to breach the rules of the university."

The row centres on texts Zaera-Polo produced for the Facade section of the exhibition, which contained passages similar to those previously published by sources including Wikipedia.

Zaera-Polo published the statement, addressed to staff and students at Princeton, on both his own and the university's website on Monday this week, but the version on Princeton's website was later removed.

The architect also uploaded a spreadsheet listing 18 examples of the texts at the centre of the row, comparing his exhibition texts with the original source.

Princeton refused to give further details on the alleged inaccuracies in Zaera-Polo's claims and it would not comment on the reasons why the architects' statement was removed from the university's website.

Zaera-Polo was born in Madrid in 1963. He worked at OMA in Rotterdam under Koolhaas before establishing Foreign Office Architects in London with Farshid Moussavi in 1993.

Following the break-up of FOA he formed Alejandro Zaera-Polo Architecture in 2011, which became Alejandro Zaera-Polo and Maider Llaguno Architecture (AZPML) when he went into partnership with Maider Llaguno in 2013.