Surfside condo architect suspended for designing structures that collapsed during Hurricane Betsy



As the saga of the search for answers to the collapse of The Champlain Towers in Surfside, Miami-Dade County continues with no solutions in sight, different facts are tumbling out that may reveal a complex number of factors involved. William Friedman, the architect who designed the condominium had been suspended for a period of six months, about 13 years before he designed The Champlain Towers in 1981.


The Real Deal obtained documents from the Florida Board of Architecture. These documents reveal  that the five-member architecture board found Friedman had violated Florida law. He was ruled to be guilty of “gross incompetency.” The board said that the 20-foot-tall pylons that were designed by him in a commercial structure in Miami were “improperly,” “carelessly” and “negligently” designed. They were an integral part of the structure and toppled during Hurricane Betsy.


Friedman was suspended from June 1, 1967, to December 1, 1967. His lawyer Smith called the flaw int he design a drafting error and said that it was not a “premeditated design” that was made to create harm to anyone. However, the suspension remained though it was not widely known.


Despite the allegations, Friedman went on to design many unusual properties in Miami including a hospital. He also built several commercial structures including shopping malls, apartments, and residences.


There is no evidence to date that any of the original team which consisted of the developer, the architect and the engineer had an important role in the collapse of the condo. However, the findings by different sources might help the investigation team to find answers as to why several floors of the 12-storied condo were reduced to rubble killing 97 persons.


One major error in the original 1980 design has been highlighted so far. According to a 2018 engineer’s report on the condo, a concrete slab at a certain part of the building had not be sloped for water drainage. Frank Schidman, a retired professor of urban planning at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton said that the question that needed to be answered was whether a design error or deferred maintenance might have been the approximate cause for the condo to tumble down.

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