Alejandro Zaera-Polo accused of plagiarism

Aug 3 '14 28 Last Comment
Aug 3, 14 10:00 pm

Word at Princeton is that Alejandro Zaera-Polo, dean of the School of Architecture, has been formally accused of plagiarism to the University by a group of students. The texts in question are all associated with his contribution to this year's Venice Biennale. In interviews, Rem practically disowned AZP's part of the show, a research exhibition on facades. The Princeton SoA website has a summary of it up now. Supposedly large portions of his text were plagiarized verbatim; this offense normally gets serious academic review and possibly could have him removed as dean. We'll see soon enough. What's even more shocking is that the source that he is accused of plagiarizing is Wikipedia (!). He is obviously not an academic, but, I mean, come on. Wikipedia?


boy in a well
Aug 4, 14 12:35 pm

and are you one of these accusing tigers, Tigers?

Aug 4, 14 1:35 pm

I find this fascinating. What if he wrote part or all of the Wikipedia contribution on facades? What if under his guidance, students put academic research on Wikipedia under the "facades" heading. 

If a work is the product of thousands of people, a collective effort, where does attribution need to be instituted? Did AZP present the work as is own, or did he merely "curate" the facades section of the Biennale as Rem did?

Did Rem properly attribute his toilets to their original designer/ craftsmen?


Anyone who hasn't grabbed some shit off Wikipedia and re-written it for fill or particularly banal portions of articles (introductions, overviews, etc)  is probably not a very good writer.

Why waste your intellect on beautiful words to describe the basics of building facades when you could easily adapt some other writing when the topic has been covered ad- nauseam. Then you pour your mind into the writing that relates to the truly original research and design that you are actually interested in writing about. 

I would never say this under my real name, as it is like academic suicide, but EVERYONE copies, just not everyone is good at obfuscating/ re-writing in a way that makes it original. 

Hell, half the best building geometry I ever scripted was based 90% on someone else's code... but they had never been able (or interested) to make the conceptual leap to achieve some new result.


I really am not surprised and don't think this is a huge deal.

Donna SinkDonna Sink
Aug 4, 14 1:37 pm

I agree 100% with archanonymous.  I don't see how an accusation of plagiarizing Wikipedia can hold up.

Donna SinkDonna Sink
Aug 4, 14 2:44 pm

I should probably clarify that I agree 100% with archanonymous' first two and final paragraphs.  As to reworking wikipedia for the more boring parts of your papers: copying is copying, and adapting is not copying.  In academia the plagiarism standards are very high.  Better to write your own version.

Aug 4, 14 2:55 pm

i would think the dishonest part isn't just that he stole other people's work, but that he tried to get people to think he came up with it.

you're not 'stealing' from wikipedia if you use them as a source (since i'm pretty sure their terms allow their material to be copied), but they should still be credited.  however, if he's saying 'look, i'm smart, i know stuff about facades' that's kind of misleading if the best he can do is copy/paste from wikipedia.  by claiming expertise in an area he apparently does not have expertise, it's academically dishonest.

for more information,

also from wikipedia:

Wikipedia's content is dually licensed under both the GFDL and CC-BY license models. Contributors continue to own copyright to their contributions, but liberally license it for reuse and modification. GFDL and CC-BY do require attribution.


of course if he did write the wikipedia article, he retains the rights to his own works and there is nothing wrong with using that work for the venice biennial.

Aug 4, 14 2:59 pm

"Plagiarism    : to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own :  use (another's production) without crediting the source"  (

It ain't the copying that's the problem, it's the false impression of original work created by leaving out any credit to the source.

Donna SinkDonna Sink
Aug 4, 14 4:14 pm

OK, I see your distinction.  Still, something about tiger's original post just sounds like mean-spirited hair-splitting.  One would think if one's accusations were sound then one wouldn't have to hide behind anonymity.  I'm skeptical that AZP has done anything wrong.

Aug 4, 14 5:04 pm


I appreciate the distinction and was not promoting the plagiarism of Wikipedia, or any other source material... but in nearly every creative pursuit, there is a unique milieu of information surrounding some topic you wish to write about, and I think it is very rare that through a career, not one unoriginal or dubiously attributed thought would make it into your work, just from being exposed to such a milieu.

A certain portion of that information is directly accessible to the writer, while other thoughts and ideas may filter in through multiple layers or adjacency. I (and the academy) see nothing wrong with reading 5 people's version of "An Introduction to Building Facade's" or the equivalent, then reading each one of their sources, then constructing my own "An Introduction to Building Facades." but the fact is, it will be substantially similar to the other 5 texts. 

Furthermore, if my point was not to write "An Introduction to Building Facades" but rather to write "An exploration of advanced concepts in the fabrication of novel structural facades" , and I just needed an overview to orient readers, I just wasted a ton of time and effort re-writing some shit that is not even the focus of my research.  Better and more expedient to get good at re-writing, re-phrasing and re-focusing already written works to work towards your ends. 


but i see both sides of the argument. And yes, Wikipedia is "lame" but I bet encyclopedia britanica does not have a chapter on building facades.

Olaf Design Ninja_
Aug 4, 14 8:59 pm

Great Movie Scenes] Good Will Hunting - Bar Scene:

Kos Scarpa Kos
Aug 9, 14 4:11 am

>>>great movie scenes...

The Great Beauty by Sorrentino - a case of plagiarism?

In the movie "La Great Beauty" I found many settings, characters, names, gags and music very similar to those I wrote or draw for the series and exhibitions entitled "Robert Star in Venice" - "Contemporary Commedia dell'Arte", realized between 2007 and 2011: an exhibition press release, six sketches, two brief dictionaries.

Aug 9, 14 11:52 pm

I heard about this accusation too but from what I understand it has already been resolved. The claim came from a PhD student at Princeton  who had been fired from the project by AZP. Some time later he accessed the project archive and brought a claim to the university based on an outdated, non-published document. Instances of copying had already been rewritten by the time the accusation came forward and Alejandro had to be dissuaded from filing a libel suit against the student. 

Do you know what this text is from? Its part of Rem's 2336 page long book on toilets and stairs and corridors. I'm guessing some of this text is lifted from wikipedia. 

My sense is that this post is coming from a disgruntled student whose smear campaign failed and this is a last-ditch effort at defamation.

Aug 15, 14 6:47 pm

Interesting, Tigers is likely to be Britt Eversole. He was boasting about it to other students for a while but nobody thought he was serious, although this is not a first: he had already accused some of his PHD colleagues of plagiarism, mainly to muscle his way up through the credit lists of joint projects. He has a reputation as a credit bully, and never accepts going anywhere but second. And the inclination to stamp his name to any paper that comes his way. He would not like to be fired or demoted in a credit list. He was also one of the main anti-AZP campaigners during the deanship search, and in the mini-uprise that greeted AZP when he took the post. So there may be other reasons for this.


If all this is true, he may have gone too far. I am with archanonymous on this: what is the big deal of using Wikipedia to do research? Is it illegal? Hasn’t it become the default research facility for everybody? Nobody writes code from scratch and nobody has a problem for people using stuff that is in the public domain; why should writing be different? But of course, in Princeton, Wikipedia is anathema; we are supposed to use only primary sources, so we spend all our time digging out stuff rather than thinking. In any case, the text is already published and can be easily dropped into a plagiarism software to see how much Wikipedia is left in it. Has anybody tried?

boy in a well
Aug 15, 14 10:24 pm

Come now, tigerstoo, do we have to stoop to Britt Eversole's level by publicly shaming Britt Eversole? My dear tiger-stool, it's unfortunate enough to be named Britt, but to be the child of a dirty cobbler, only Loos could imagine the horror. . . Even if Britt Everstool deserves to be the inaugural member of Rate My Academic Colleague, I'd still suggest you and your fellow kardashians - I mean ass-tattooed tigers - consider a traditional gauntlet of physical violence followed by a few rounds of quarters before before following in Britt Foreveratool's ugly footsteps. But I'm old school that way.

Olaf Design Ninja_
Aug 16, 14 2:50 pm

Never heard of either guy, so looked them up. FOA did know that...anyway this is quite the classicly entertaining Archinect thread - old school, I am with 'boy in the well', a good cage match would be exciting enough to get people to read whatever we are talking about here. What page could I find this text on 'somethinganonymous'?

Aug 21, 14 5:10 pm

I've heard that it is no the first time he is accused of plagiarism, or maybe it is the same case. Any way. He published a text in his name, but it occurred to be an original work of one his students at Princeton.


But hey come on! Thats one of the benefits of being a architectural theorist at a prestigious university. Have students do all the work, and you take the credit. 

Wait a minute that sound familiar. Yep. Rem Koolhaas and his infamous Venice exhibition and not the least the Elements of architecture book. There was a bit controversy whether the Howard student should get more credit for their work. 

boy in a well
Aug 21, 14 6:17 pm

I heard he crushes kittens, or maybe that he doesn't.

Theres a pretty substantial controversy about it going on, but its, like, a secret, so no one's heard about it.

won and done williams
Aug 21, 14 8:58 pm

I don't know what's worse the petty academic accusations at a supposedly prestigious university or the absurd rationalizations for plagiarism found in this thread. Sad.

Actually, if you take a quote of ANY written writing EVEN your own writing from another source, you need to cite your sources. If it came from Wikipedia then you cite the source.

These rules applies to academic writings not necessarily to posters since you don't have bibliographies on posters. However, it depends on what it is. If it is a paper, yes. A mini-pamphlet... probably not. An academic research paper.... absolutely.

When it comes to academic and professional reports, cite your sources. Especially.... academic but you do want to do so with professional reports/research reports. 

boy in a well
Aug 22, 14 2:28 am

are there any rationalizations of plagiarism? I think everyone agrees that you cite a source. Other than that, we have some writers acknowledging that its not worthwhile to rewrite history in order to write 3 sentences (and, ok, some mediocre chap accusing everyone of copying, which isn't true; a lot of people don't. But I suppose there are bad eggs floating to the top everywhere....). So what's absurd? I just think that everyone posting here smells a rat, or a ratt, or a Bratt, or, god forbid, a Britt. Its sad if you cant recognize that.

Olaf Design Ninja_
Aug 22, 14 6:40 am

Boy in the well - you do realize that no one really cares about this situation right? Other than the institutions of Princeton and Wikipedia most people including architects would be hard pressed to know these people "allegedly" involved and what the hell this is all about. I find this to be a very entertaining thread. I want to see more mud slinging to keep me interested.

boy in a well
Aug 22, 14 9:22 pm

I have a pile of rocks and an uncontrollable urge to comfort the lonely and neglected threads of archinect. And I've heard there might be a tiger on my ass, but I've never seen it.

what was your point again?

Olaf Design Ninja_
Aug 22, 14 9:53 pm

talk to the hand boy.

boy in a well
Aug 22, 14 10:14 pm


How about just a finger?

Olaf Design Ninja_
Aug 22, 14 11:12 pm

hahahaha....I used that once when i kept a school blog ('06-'07) when some Kieran Timberlake supporter tried to bash me anonymously...years later I find myself working for an architect who specializes in waterproofing and we are looking at those drawings those kids did for Yale.   btw Eero's drawings for the Yale housing are pretty cool.

Aug 29, 14 6:04 am

Definitely, the petty academic accountancy, holier than thou practices are, by far, the worst enemy of originality in research. Particularly when people make a career of becoming the watchdogs, to propel themselves forward in the credits of joint projects.

As for the rationalizations of plagiarism, what scale of copying constitutes crime? A 10-word chain? A paragraph? A whole chapter? An idea? And, don’t the Harvard students know that anything they do while working for RK, paid or as part of their academic requirements belongs to the project? Otherwise, nobody could develop research in research Universities like Harvard and Princeton. If the students were capable of getting the commission for the Biennale by themselves, they would not be working for RK. Would you? You can’t agree to work on a faculty project and then claim authorship for it. If you want to preserve your authorship, do not work for faculty research, particularly if it is paid research.

Amazon says that Koolhaas’ book with AZP façade chapter is out and published by Marsilio. I am sure that the accounting tigers have already got a copy of it, and have checked it out thoroughly for Wikipedia bits. They could share with us the sins of RK and AZP rather than spinning off anonymous rumors. If they want to become the Wikileaks of architecture, they need to deliver the goods.   

John Smart
Feb 7, 15 1:15 am

AZP seems to run into a lot of problems even prior to this accusation. He threatened to sue Balmond. His reputation as a womanizer eventually led to the demise of FOA. His unscrupulous exploitation of employees during the design and construction of YIPT. In his memoire, SL, he looked down on the respectable British academics as the bunch of old wankers. The list goes on.

Britt Eversole "I won. Now, say my name"

John Smart
Feb 7, 15 1:46 am

Needless to say, Britt's PhD thesis is called "The Disenchantment with Democracy", hah

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