Real Estate

Surfside Condo Architect Had Been Suspended For Faulty Designs

William Friedman, the architect who designed the Surfside condo building that partially collapsed in late June, had been suspended by Florida’s board of architecture in 1967 for designing buildings that could not withstand Hurricane Betsy.

One component of a commercial building called “sign pylons,” named an “integral part of the structure” by the Florida State Board of Architecture, failed during the 1965 hurricane, according to documents obtained by The Real Deal. According to those documents, the pylons were not up to code for their location, and were “insufficient and grossly inadequate” for dealing with hurricane force winds.

After those failures, the architecture board ruled Friedman guilty in 1966 of “gross incompetency, in that he negligently, improperly, and carelessly” designed the pylons. His suspension was effective June 1, 1967 and lasted through December 1, 1967.

Champlain Towers South, the Surfside condo building that partially collapsed, was built in 1981. Police believe a total of 98 people were killed in the tragedy, but still have not located the 98th victim, a 54-year-old woman named Estelle Hedaya who had recently moved from New York to Florida.

It’s unclear exactly where the sign pylons were located on the affected buildings in 1965, based on the documents obtained by The Real Deal. However, experts The Real Deal showed those documents to believe the pylons were likely attached to the building’s roof and were part of some sort of promotional signs affixed to the building.

Friedman’s suspension due to the pylons also was not the only time he was confronted by Florida’s architecture board — according to documents received by The Real Deal, the board had also received information “concerned alleged plan stamping” from Friedman. But, specifics of the claim were not revealed in those documents.

Plan stamping is when an architect stamps plans and drawings created by another person (often an unlicensed individual who may not even be an architect). The practice, not surprisingly, is illegal. During Friedman’s career, the practice was more common, according to Fort Lauderdale Architect Kaizer Talib, but more rigorous oversight has made the practice less common today.

“[Plan stamping is] very unethical and very illegal,” Talib told The Real Deal. “That is the worst an architect could do.”

Email Lillian Dickerson

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