Lippmann Partnership’s redesign of the award-winning Emanuel Synagogue entered a new phase in 2020 when the Synagogue engaged another architect to carry out a refurbishment of the adjacent original Synagogue Sanctuary.

The new architect’s brief included alterations to the adjacent Millie Phillips Forecourt known as the Kiddush Court. I was not advised or consulted about these changes. In July this year, Lippman Partnership Principal Ed Lippmann discovered that a DA had been submitted and approved to make these changes.

The scope of the new works was significant and included a raising of the north side of the Kiddush Court to make it one level and dismantling the glass roof structure and changing it into a multi-level roof by raising sections of it.

“I immediately contacted the Synagogue to express my concerns about the unsympathetic changes without my input,” says Lippmann, who also notes that he explained that Federal Legislation requires an owner of a significant architectural work to consult with the original architect “in good faith” prior to proceeding with any change to such work. It is also a requirement of the Board of Architects for any registered member, like the new architect, engaged to modify a significant architectural work, to consult the original architect beforehand. Neither of these legal or professional requirements were observed, he notes.

“Having been alerted to these breaches, Emanuel Synagogue consulted with me as required by the Act albeit a year after they should have. The CEO of the Synagogue undertook not to proceed with the construction tender until the matter was resolved with me,” he says.

“This this was the proper thing to do, and I was appreciative that, at last, proper process was being observed despite the earlier breaches. I commenced a consultation process with the new architect in July. We came to an alternative position on the design of the alterations.”

However unbeknown to him, the tender had gone out to builders despite the CEO’s undertaking to the contrary.

“The new architect and I concluded our consultation and came to an agreement on what should occur,” says Lippmann.

“The building tenders have now come in and the President of the Synagogue, who has refused my request to meet the Board on two occasions, has now advised me that the Board will make its own decision irrespective of the legislated ‘in good faith’ consultation between the new architect and myself,” he adds.

Speaking exclusively to Architecture & Design, Ed Lippmann says that the so-called “Moral Rights” provisions are a part of the Copyright Act 1968 which is Federal Legislation. It provides, writers, artists and architects the right to, amongst other things, protect their work from “derogation” or deterioration of value. These rights are provided during the lifetime of the authors and to their estate for 70 years after.

Legally speaking in cases where a building owner wants to modify a building, the Act requires a discussion to take place with the original architect. They must be timely and conducted in “good faith”.

Where a new architect is involved, the client and the new architect are required to advise the former architect of the work at hand and provide an opportunity to the first architect to comment on the second architect’s design with the view of modifying the new design to find an acceptable outcome of the parties. 

The mandated discussion between the former and new architect is time limited (21 days) and must be conducted by the parties in “good faith”.  For the profession this statutory requirement is reinforced by the requirements of the Institute of Architects and the Board of Architects.

“It’s not uncommon but a lot of architects aren’t aware they have these rights or, if they do, they tend do nothing to enforce the rights because it’s too hard. Sometimes, as almost happened here, they aren’t aware that their work is being derogated and it’s too late.”

“There are also cases of distinguished buildings being demolished and totally replaced which is a shame ad has happened often in this emerald city of ours. What’s alarming is that we, as a community, don’t always value good architecture as a social asset,” he notes.

Asked as to what he would have you preferred to happen, Lippman says, “I would have preferred to have been approached as soon as the project was launched to discuss the brief including the objectives of the modifications and then invited to consult on the project. This is not much more than what the legislation stipulates. It’s possible that sometimes building owners aren’t aware of these requirements but an architect certainly should be.”

“So, we, as architects,” he notes, “have a duty to uphold these protocols. In fact, the New South Wales Board of Architects Code of Professional Conduct and the AIA Code of Conduct reflect these legal processes very closely. Architects are sometimes motivated by opportunistic ambitions at the expense of their peers and professional ethics. This is very damaging to our profession.”

As to where the matter is now, Lippmann says that while he “…only discovered the Emanuel’s plans for alteration by chance on the Council website… I contacted the Synagogue and the new architect, explained the legislation and sought the consultation in good faith as required by the Act. The consultation eventually happened but the project was put out to tender before the in “good faith” consultation was completed.”

 “The tenders to construct the alterations haven’t been accepted yet and I’m hoping things can still be turned around. I hope the petition will help alert the owners to the value of their asset which is more than a commercial investment because legal action would be expensive and debilitating for all parties,” he says.

Says Ed Lippmann: “There is legislation which protects architectural work from derogation or to put it more accurately, legislation which gives architects rights to protect their work from derogation. This is the core of the legislation. We should think of the legislation as a mechanism for our community to protect public assets not only an opportunity for individual architects to protect their work.”

“Any building” says Lippmann, “especially an award-winning public building should be significant to its owners and the community. I guess that’s the reason for having the Moral Rights provisions.”

“The Emanuel Synagogue has been a champion of multi faith human rights and high ethical standards so it’s ironic that this issue ever arose with this client.”

“Despite the problems to date, I’m hopeful that we’ll find a way to achieve a good outcome and establish a template for doing things better in future,” he adds.