The United Arab Emirates is an architectural playground. Its existing man-made wonders include the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, and the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, while the world’s first rotating skyscraper has been proposed here by architect David Fisher.
Blink and you’ll miss the next superlative project.
One of its latest rising towers is the Dubai Frame – which quite literally looks like a giant, gold-plated picture frame. Located in Zabeel Park, it is expected to open later this year and attract nearly 2 million tourists annually.
The 492 feet (150 meter) tall frame aims to complement the rest of Dubai’s skyline by serving as an observatory, providing clear views of “Old Dubai” in the north and “New Dubai” in the south.
Except there’s one problem.
Mexican-born architect Fernando Donis claims the idea was stolen from him, after he won a design pitch at an international competition in 2008, hosted by Dubai Municipality and ThyssenKrupp Elevator.
Intellectual property lawsuit claim
The terms of the ThyssenKrupp Elevator Architecture Award, which CNN has seen, were clear.
The winner’s design would be considered by the Dubai Municipality and, if commissioned, only be used once a contract had been signed by both parties. The design owner would retain copyright and their design could not be used – even in part – without their formal consent.
But in an intellectual property lawsuit filed in the US against Dubai Municipality (not ThyssenKrupp) in 2016, Donis claimed he had not been included in the frame’s construction process or been compensated for it.
After beating more than 900 other contestants to win the award, Donis’ architecture firm entered into discussions with Dubai Municipality but ultimately, in 2013, rejected a final draft agreement because, he claims, it included several unexpected clauses.
For example, Donis wouldn’t be able to use the structure in any of his company’s promotional material, his team would have little involvement in the development and building process, and the contract could be terminated by Dubai Municipality at any time.