With the 2016 Venice Biennale opening this week, it seems oddly appropriate that a dispute originating in the 2014 Biennale is finally hitting the courts. On Tuesday evening, a New Jersey court document was anonymously leaked to ArchDaily and a variety of other architecture publications. It showed that Alejandro Zaera-Polo, founder of AZPML and former Dean of Princeton University’s School of Architecture, was suing his employer over the events surrounding his own abrupt resignation as Dean last year.
The resignation itself was demanded* by Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber after Zaera-Polo was accused of plagiarizing parts of a text he produced for the “Elements of Architecture” exhibition curated by Rem Koolhaas at the 2014 Venice Biennale. From the start, Zaera-Polo has denied that his texts violate Princeton’s academic code of conduct, but nevertheless agreed to Eisgruber’s demand. In the documents leaked Tuesday, Zaera-Polo criticizes the actions taken by Princeton both before and since his resignation, arguing that they have damaged his reputation. He is thus suing them on four charges: “breach of contract,” “breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing,” “tortious interference with contract and prospective economic advantage,” and finally “trade libel.”
The story will undoubtedly receive a lot of attention, given that it involves a controversial dispute between an internationally renowned architect and a university with an international stature. But the real story behind the dispute is not about Alejandro Zaera-Polo’s academic conduct or Princeton’s handling of its staff contracts; instead, it has everything to do with our expected standards for architectural research.