The New York Review of Books wrongly claimed architect Zaha Hadid had “no concern” for construction workers killed working on her design for the 2022 World Cup stadium in Qatar.
The problem was construction never started, nor had any worker been killed, when the review was published. Hadid said the New York Review of Books used her comments about other construction deaths out of context.
The New York Review of Books’ architecture critic Martin Filler made the errors in his June 5 article. On Aug. 21, Hadid filed a defamation lawsuit over the claims and called for “an immediate injunction against the article’s continued publication.” Filler issued an apology within days on the New York Review of Books website this week, Reuters reported.
iMediaEthics received a statement from Oren Warshavsky, Baker-Hostetler counsel to Ms. Hadid. Warshavsky said, “The decision to file a lawsuit is never one made lightly. Prior to filing the lawsuit, Ms. Hadid carefully considered the issues at stake to her professional career and reputation and came to the conclusion that the filing of the lawsuit was the correct action to take.”
The review by Filler said of Hadid:
‘She has unashamedly disavowed any responsibility, let alone concern, for the estimated one thousand laborers who have perished while constructing her project so far. ‘I have nothing to do with it,’ Hadid has claimed. ‘It’s not my duty as an architect to look at it.’ ”
Hadid said she made those comments in February, before the stadium began construction and in reference to other construction sites in Qatar. The Guardian reported:
“Hadid claims that passage was based on a February 2014 statement taken out of context, before work on the stadium had begun and that there were no worker deaths at the site. The topic had come up in a press conference she attended in London that followed an article in the Guardian revealing that almost 1,000 migrant workers, mainly from India and Nepal, had died on Qatar construction sites in the previous two years.”
Her lawsuit claimed the errors led to “public ridicule, contempt, aversion [and] disgrace,” the New York Times reported.
Filler’s June 5 report, “The Insolence of Architecture,” was a review of Rowan Moore’s book Why We Build: Power and Desire in Architecture. The full article is only available to subscribers.
How was Hadid drawn into the matter then? A press release sent to iMediaEthics by Hadid’s lawyers said that the book review zeroed in on information referencing Zadid in the book. The 370-page book discusses Hadid “in fewer than 20 pages.” However, “Mr. Filler’s book review, by contrast, mentions Ms. Hadid in nearly two-thirds of its paragraphs”
“Nearly all of those references are used to call our client’s success into question or to characterize her personality as difficult,” her lawyer is quoted in the press release as saying. “It is a personal attack disguised as a book review and has exposed Ms. Hadid to public ridicule and contempt, depriving her of confidence and injuring her good name and reputation.”
Her lawyers say that the construction on the stadium won’t start until later this year, so there aren’t any worker deaths there. “The complaint alleges that the statements were written and published with actual malice and an indifference to the standards of responsible journalism,” Warshavsky said in a press release.
The apology, titled “A Letter from Martin Filler,” is published on the magazine’s homepage and reads:
“In my review of Rowan Moore’s Why We Build: Power and Desire in Architecture [NYR, June 5], I quoted comments by the architect Zaha Hadid, who designed the Al Wakrah stadium in Qatar, when she was asked in London in February 2014 about revelations a week earlier in the Guardian that hundreds of migrant laborers had died while working on construction projects in Qatar. I wrote that an ‘estimated one thousand laborers…have perished while constructing her project thus far.’
“However, work did not begin on the site for the Al Wakrah stadium until two months after Ms. Hadid made those comments; and construction is not scheduled to begin until 2015. There have been no worker deaths on the Al Wakrah project and Ms. Hadid’s comments about Qatar that I quoted in the review had nothing to do with the Al Wakrah site or any of her projects.
“I regret the error.”
Warsahvsky, Hadid’s lawyer, said in a statement sent to iMediaEthics they had received the apology letter and would issue a statement later.
In the press release Hadid’s lawyers sent out about her lawsuit, however, lawyer Warshavsky said that “neither a correction nor a clarification is appropriate or sufficient for this degree of blatant falsehood.”
iMediaEthics has written to the New York Review of Books for comment.