December 3, 2023

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Santiago Calatrava: works in progress, high budgets and award winning

Santiago Calatrava: works in progress, high budgets and award winning

On October 19, Spanish architect, artist and engineer Santiago Calatrava will be invited to receive the Florence Biennale’s Leonardo da Vinci Lifetime Achievement Award, recognizing him as “one of the most influential architects of our time.”

“The award is the Florence Biennale’s tribute to one of the most important architects of our time and in recognition of your daring experimentation, your extraordinary talent and your masterful ability to combine architecture and art in works imagined, conceived in harmony with nature and guided by the ideals of beauty,” it is characteristically stated in the announcement of the international contemporary exhibition.

For those of you who don’t know him or are wondering what his name reminds you of, it was Santiago Calatrava who designed the Calatrava canopy that “embraces” the Athens Olympic Stadium, “the roof that symbolizes Olympic glory… a structure” that will be noted in an article guardian.

“It has been an honor to work on these projects.”

The Olympic Stadium in Athens from above

“Calatrava drains you”

In 2013, while the World Trade Center station was being built in Manhattan, New York, The New York Times In an article – a tribute to the famous Spanish architect, they reveal through third parties that all that “glitters is not gold”.

As reported, a politician in Calatrava’s hometown of Valencia created and ran a website called Calatravaticlava, which loosely translates to “Calatrava Juices.”

This marks the complex of buildings in Valencia, City of Arts and Sciences, which includes, among other things, an exhibition hall, a planetarium and an opera house, costing three times the money of the original budget of 300 million euros. That the city never had.

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Ignacio Blanco, the site’s director and member of Valencia’s parliament, revealed in 2012 that the city still owed €700 million. It is noteworthy that the huge project was completed in 1998, and the last part of it was delivered to the public in 2005.

The photo is from part of the City of Arts and Sciences

Calatrava received about 94 million euros.

Blanco wonders how this is possible when the 150 seats in the opera house were built without a clear view of the stage, or when the Science Museum has no emergency exits or elevators for the disabled.

The culmination of all this was the collapse of the Opera House’s roof in 2014, prompting local authorities to sue Calatrava.

“The collapse was expected”

In fact, during a storm the place was flooded. A city engineer had reprimanded Calatrava in a statement to a local newspaper for trying to cover some of the steel sides of the opera with a mosaic of broken white tiles.

“It may have been a nice idea, but it was ridiculous. The collapse that is happening now was expected. On days with rapid temperature fluctuations, steel and mosaic contract and expand at different rates.”

The Spanish government demanded compensation for the restoration work, as the architect referred to the revolutionary design of the project, but his opponents pointed out the lack of supervision on his part during its construction, in addition to some major technical errors in official documents.

“He is not looking for function, he is aiming for exclusivity.”

“My goal is always to create something exceptional that improves cities and enriches the lives of the people who live and work in them. It has been an honor to work on these projects, which were completed to the highest standards,” the statement from Santiago Calatrava’s office said.

City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia

“Did Valencia need an opera?”

Regarding the cost overruns for the construction of the City of Arts and Sciences, Blanco stated in an interview that the problem lies in the fact that Calatrava’s plans are arbitrary, they include minimal details.

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“Other architects know exactly what door handles they want, where to buy them and how much they cost. Calatrava is the opposite,” he noted. His work does not have that degree of precision, he noted.

Valencia appears to be regretting the huge task today. Many describe the City of Arts and Sciences as another monument to government extravagance rather than Calatrava, and ask: “Did Valencia really need an opera?”

“The problem is that it goes beyond the customer.”

The city of Bilbao, Spain, faced a similar situation, as the city had problems with a pedestrian bridge, the work of an architect.

“What has been observed time and again is that instead of looking for functionality or customer satisfaction, it aims for exclusivity,” said Jesus Cañada Merino, president of the Bilbao Association of Architects.

“The problem is that Calatrava is ahead of the customer.”

Bilbao Bridge

World Trade Center station

One of Calatrava’s largest projects, which began in 2005 and was scheduled for delivery in 2016, suffered a leak in its roof. It is worth noting that the initial budget for the project was $2 billion and it ended up costing twice that.

People involved in building the project said the Spanish architect’s plans were “problematic”, describing them as “very difficult structures”, including the huge underground chamber.

Interior of the World Trade Center

In addition, they revealed that he himself requested that the station’s mechanical functions, such as ventilation, be placed outside it, which complicated the construction process and made it particularly time-consuming.

Bad reviews of the project were widespread, with Michael Kimmelman of The Times calling the contraption a “stegosaurus farce.”

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