Alejandro Zaera-Polo accused of plagiarism

Aug 3 '14 29 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 (name removed by moderator). 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 (name removed by moderator)'s level by publicly shaming (name removed by moderator)? My dear tiger-stool, it's unfortunate enough to be named (name removed by moderator), but to be the child of a dirty cobbler, only Loos could imagine the horror. . . Even if (name removed by moderator) 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 (name removed by moderator)'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.

Aug 21, 14 11:01 pm

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 (name removed by moderator). 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.   

May 16, 15 7:53 am

Dear Dirk/(name removed by moderator)/Tigers

Had to move back here, ground Zero of your defamatory campaign, to reply to your post on Dezeen, where the moderator did not want to post my reply. this has the advantage that I can call you by your name. so for the general public, this post follows the following thread:

Not planning to answer in detail to your pointless diatribe:

1 Nobody blames Koolhaas for anything, but (name removed by moderator) and his supporters, and Eisgruber.

2 Bodycount under AZP bus? Please enlighten us.

3 I gather you are unable to find any other historical error beyond the Lever House instance.

4 Anti-intellectual manifesto? Rather anti-academic idiocy.

5. Plagiarism? Call it whatever you want. I call it paraphrasis of unacknowledged sources of (public domain) technical information. In the published evidence there are 16 of them, three of them allegedly a mistake of the publisher (like the Lever House text?). It is for everybody to judge if that is in any way an attack on intellectual rights or moral integrity. In the absence of further proof, that’s what we have, the rest are rumors. 

6. Re precedents for disclaimers in books, I do not know any, some people may. So what? It’s unique: He knew he had decided to remove all citations, in agreement with Koolhaas. (who appears in the book and in his own letter, as " overall author" while Westcott apperars as "chief editor"). AZP knew that was a tricky thing to do in the academic environment and with the background of your accusations, so he deliberately stated it upfront. The statement is not small print, is in your face and tongue in chick: clearly an ideological statement against the hypocrisy of the academic righteousness he was facing. 

I do not have any proof of the rumors, so they will remain rumors until Princeton decides to make the evidence public. But, since you are spreading rumors let me clarify for everybody's benefit what the gossip mill is saying. (and this does not come only from students or faculty, but from the professional milieu too!) You and another student were fired from the Venice research. Few months later, and after talking to a few (too) senior faculty in the School, you decided to hijack AZP’s project by making a claim over his ideas. People say there were up to three faculty members involved in the preparations, two of them the geriatric ones, and a third one who was allegedly well connected to Eisgruber. (There is a lot of speculation about his identity, as he seems to have been the most effective one). Because you had never written anything on facades, envelopes or building technologies, and your claim did not sound plausible, you entered illegally into AZP’s project archive, copied some files and sent them to the University claiming that the concept was yours and that he was using unacknowledged sources and asking students to delete sources. The story was false, primarily based on fabricated evidence, but the supporting faculty went to Eisgruber and supported your story. Some of them allegedly to other colleagues in NYC, spreading rumors, and even talked to the former ethicist of the New York Times! Meanwhile, you and your fellow disgruntled students (allegedly two other people fired from the research) posted a defamatory message here, signed as Tigers above. AZP seems to have acknowledged without hesitation the use of unacknowledged sources, but defended his right to do that in a non-academic engagement and in agreement with the overall author, as the letters demonstrate. Despite the illicit nature of the sources, the vagueness of the evidence, and the background of rumors, Eisgruber seems to have decided to ask him to step down with immediate effect, but as discreetly as possible. How much more clumsy can you get? How could the President of an ivy league University get embroiled in such a petty affair beggars belief. Did they think that AZP would shut up? There is intense speculation about his reasons to make his public statement a few months later, and some people believe there is an ongoing or imminent lawsuit in the cards, after failed negotiations. 

This may be all a conspiracy theory of mine. Perhaps. I have no evidence that I can present because my witnesses will not give evidence unless they are put under oath. But they might.

You are toasted my friend. Your oversized ego has made you prey of a group of disgruntled faculty who have encouraged you, in order to remove a Dean they did not like because he was trying to change a school that has become a cemetery of elephants. Your name is well publicized and you can be certain that not many schools would be willing to hire a rat like you anytime soon. Do I understand correctly that is is not the first nor the second time that you accuse someone of "plagiarism"? That there is evidence of a pattern? Your own colleagues will give faith of your rodent quality.  

You are not doing yourself any favors by extending further your defamatory activities. You status is now a liability for the University. How many Universities will be willing to acknowledge that they allow teaching assistants unwarranted access to their faculty archives, and that they endorse the defamatory activities of students and faculty, with the direct blessing of the President? Princeton unimpeachable? They should have disciplined you—and perhaps some of your supporters— long time ago for actions that would be illegal in a court of law.They are taking severe risks by not acting immediately. But I believe it is only a matter of time for the evidence to surface in its full force. Maybe under oath.

Olaf Design Ninja_
May 16, 15 8:49 am

can I get this internet rumble in monograph form to put on my coffee table?

May 16, 15 12:42 pm

Wow! We had heard many of these rumors before, but never so articulated. It is not difficult to trace the conspirators from this description. 

If the unwarranted access to AZP archives and the slander are true and they happen under Eisgruber's watch he may be in trouble too. 

All this would come out in the depositions if AZP sues. But will he? Dinosaur is right. May be too expensive for what he may get, which is basically, a revenge. 

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