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Frank Gehry undergoes suit for design flaws

A top U.S. university has filed a lawsuit against world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, alleging serious design flaws in the Stata Center, a building widely celebrated for its unconventional walls and radical angles.

The suit says the Massachusetts Institute of Technology paid Los Angeles-based Gehry Partners $15 million (10.31 million EUR) to design the Stata Center, which cost $300 million (206.23 million EUR) to build.

The school alleges that soon after its completion in spring 2004, the center's outdoor amphitheater began to crack due to drainage problems. The suit says snow and ice fell dangerously from window boxes and other areas of its roofs, blocking emergency exits and damaging parts of the building.

The building has persistent leaks and mold grew on the center's brick exterior, the suit alleges.

"Gehry breached its duties by providing deficient design services and drawings," according to the suit, which also names the construction company, New Jersey-based Beacon Skanska Construction Company, now known as Skanska USA Building Inc.

The suit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston on Oct. 31, seeks unspecified damages for costs and expenses incurred by MIT.

Gehry Partners did not respond to calls and e-mails Monday from The Boston Globe. A spokesman for MIT declined to comment because of the pending lawsuit.

An executive at Skanska's Boston office said Gehry - whose work includes the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles - ignored warnings from Skanska and a consulting company prior to construction that there were flaws in his design of the amphitheater.

"This is not a construction issue, never has been," said Paul Hewins, executive vice president and area general manager of Skanska USA.

Hewins said Skanska, whose work includes the New England Patriots' Gillette Stadium, attended mediation with MIT but was unable to resolve all issues.

The 400,000-square-foot Ray and Maria Stata Center houses labs, offices, classrooms and meeting rooms, and features a "street" that winds through the ground floor.