Airport design row rumbles on

In response to the controversy surrounding the competition to design Suvarnabhumi airport’s new passenger terminal, the Architect Council of Thailand (ACT) has urged parties affected by the result to lodge a complaint.

Addressing a press conference called by the council over the matter, ACT president Thanit Kittiampon said the council does not have the authority to initiate a probe into alleged plagiarism in the winning design without a formal complaint having first been raised by an affected party.

Duangrit Bunnag, the renowned architect who won the bid, was accused by Thai netizens of copying the design of Yasuhara Wooden Bridge Museum by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.

Mr Duangrit later denied the accusation.

“If this case is proven to be plagiarism, the architect’s licence will be suspended, while his winning design will be declared invalid,” said Adm Thanit.

He cited a previous case of proven plagiarism in the design contest for the new parliament complex, in which an architect was found to have copied the work of a foreign designer.

However, because Thai law is limited to only prohibiting plagiarising of designs that are produced and exist in Thailand, he was not punished criminally, but for violating the professional code of conduct, which resulted in his licence being suspended for a certain period, said ACT president.

Prakitti Kasemsan, secretary-general of the ACT, meanwhile raised questions over Airports of Thailand Plc’s (AoT) decision to rush the submission of designs and quotations in order to conclude the process just two days before a new law on state procurement took effect.

“The AoT must be well aware of the new and stricter regulations because it was already announced in the Royal Gazette and had waited a period of 180 days to come into effect.

“Why couldn’t they wait for a couple of more days?” asked AVM ML Prakitti.

If the AoT had waited until the new law took effect, the competition would have required just two steps — the selection of design concepts first and then a final round with bidding, according to the ACT president.

“This is the ideal approach as it encourages more competitors to enter the contest,” he said, adding that past AoT design contests had attracted only four competitors.

“This approach was once used in the selection of the design for the new parliament complex when he served as a member of the selection committee,” and it worked, he said.

While procedures were later amended, the system returned in the new law on state procurement, said AVM ML Prakitti.

Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha instructed AoT to launch an investigation into the controversy surrounding the contest.

The discord arose after the original winner, SA Group, was disqualified after failing to submit its original quotation for the design cost.

According to AoT, this was required for compliance purposes and was specified in the contest’s terms of reference.

Subsequently, DBALP Consortium, headed by Mr Duangrit, was instead declared the winner on Aug 22 after originally being the runner up.

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