Cultural Affairs Bureau (IC) Vice President Leong Wai Man reaffirmed Sunday that the bureau would proceed with local architect Carlos Marreiros’ design for the New Central Library, despite allegations of plagiarism.
Leong made the remarks while speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a public event at the Macau Museum of Art (MAM).
The bureau announced earlier this month that Marreiros’ design had won a public tender for the design of the city’s New Central Library to be housed in the Old Courthouse in Avenida da Praia Grande.
Last week, photos of a building in Spain bearing striking similarities to Marreiros’ design circulated on social media platforms, with netizens accusing Marreiros of plagiarism.
On Thursday, Marreiros held a press conference during which he vehemently denied the plagiarism claims, and on Saturday, a statement from the bureau said that it would proceed with Marreiros’ design, proposed by his company MAA – Marreiros Architectural Atelier Ltd.
Leong said yesterday that Marreiros’s winning design was inspired by a chapel in the eastern French town of Ronchamp, designed by French architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, known as Le Corbusier.
“Many masterpieces are also inspired by this building,” Leong said, explaining that both the layout of the New Central Library design and the Auditorio de Leon in Spain derived from Le Corbusier’s sun prevention façade styles.
“The façade and windows segmentation, also the function of the back of the building are completely different,” Leong said, adding that the local evaluation committee needed to look at the design in its overall concept, including the function, arrangement and integration of the old and new architecture and heritage conservation strategy, which was why Marreiro’s design won the bid.
Asked why the evaluation process did not include a public segment, Leong said this was due to the fact that the New Central Library project is a large construction project, involving complicated and professional heritage conservation.
Leong pointed out the bureau had invited experts from the architecture sector and library experts to comment on the various designs it received during the bidding process. She insisted that the bidding process followed the principles of fairness, impartiality and openness.
She said that the bureau would provide the public with more information during different stages of the preparation of the New Central Library project in the future.
A total of nine bids were received and accepted by the tender board earlier this year, with the quotations ranging from 9.8 million patacas to 43 million patacas, and the proposed design completion period ranging from 210 days to 320 days.
Marreiros’ quotation of 18.68 million patacas was the third lowest among the nine bidders.
The first tender for the design of the New Central Library at the Old Courthouse – whose façade and some other features are to be kept intact – was abruptly cancelled by the bureau due to an investigation by the Commission Against Corruption (CCAC). At that time, Marreiros had been excluded from the tender.
IC officials have said they expect the New Central Library to open in 2022 at the earliest. Currently, the Central Library is located in Praça do Tap Seac.
The Old Courthouse was built in the early 1950s in Portugal’s so-called “Estado Novo” (“New State”) style common during the country’s rightwing 1933-1974 dictatorship. Similarly bombastic building styles were popular in Franco’s Spain, Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s fascist Italy.