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Old September 28th, 2013, 03:29 PM   #1
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Santiago Calatrava developing a bad rep for cost overruns and incomplete projects

New York Times ran a quite harsh piece on Santiago Calatrava's project mishaps, saying that even if starchitecture is generally expensive, he'd take it to unacceptable levels of overruns and unworkable projects.

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VALENCIA, Spain — For a while, this sprawling Mediterranean city embraced Santiago Calatrava’s architecture with gusto. In a dried-up riverbed, Mr. Calatrava built and built, eventually filling 86 acres with his radical, and some say awe-inspiring, designs.

But these days, even as Mr. Calatrava’s eye-catching PATH station creeps toward completion in Lower Manhattan, he is often cast as a villain here in Valencia. One local politician runs a Web site called Calatravatelaclava, which loosely translates as, “Calatrava bleeds you dry.”

Originally budgeted at 300 million euros (about $405 million), the riverbed complex, called the City of Arts and Sciences — the world’s largest collection of Mr. Calatrava’s work, which includes a performance hall, a bridge, a planetarium, an opera house, a science museum, a covered walkway and acres of reflecting pools — has cost nearly three times that much, money the region never had.

Mr. Calatrava was paid approximately 94 million euros (about $127 million) for his work. How could that be, Mr. Blanco asks, when the opera house included 150 seats with obstructed views? Or when the science museum was initially built without fire escapes or elevators for the disabled?

“How can you make mistakes like that?” asked Mr. Blanco, a member of the small opposition United Left party here, who said millions were spent to fix such errors. “He was paid even when repairing his own mistakes.”

in numerous interviews, other architects, academics and builders say that Mr. Calatrava is amassing an unusually long list of projects marred by cost overruns, delays and litigation. It is hard to find a Calatrava project that has not been significantly over budget. And complaints abound that he is indifferent to the needs of his clients.

Mr. Calatrava is likely to come under renewed scrutiny in New York as building continues on one of his latest projects, the new PATH train station at ground zero. It is expected to open in 2015 but is six years behind schedule and will cost $4 billion, twice the original budget.

In recent months he has defended his work in writing in various publications, saying that his fees in Valencia were fair because they covered 20 years of work and included some management of the sites.

In a brief interview in Architectural Record magazine last year, he noted that clients were satisfied enough to come back for more. Among them are the cities of Dublin and Dallas. In that article, Mr. Calatrava called the uproar over his work in Valencia “a political maneuver by the Communists.”

In Bilbao he designed a footbridge with a glass tile surface that allowed it to be lighted from below, keeping its sweeping arches free of lampposts. But in a city that gets a lot of rain and occasional snow, pedestrians keep falling on the slippery surface. City officials say some 50 citizens have injured themselves, sometimes breaking legs or hips, on the bridge since it opened in 1997, and the glass bricks frequently crack and need to be replaced

On the outskirts of Bilbao, Mr. Calatrava was commissioned to build an airport terminal that has been nicknamed La Paloma because of its resemblance to a dove taking flight. But when it opened in 2000, the airport lacked an arrivals hall. Passengers moved through the customs and baggage area directly to the sidewalk where they had to wait in the cold. The airport authorities have since installed a glass wall to shelter them.

In the Álava region, a winery is suing Mr. Calatrava over an undulating roof he designed a dozen years ago. Problems with leaks, which ruin the humidity control that is vital to wine, have never been resolved. The owners of the winery, Domecq, are asking for 2 million euros (about $2.7 million) to hire fresh architects and engineers to devise a solution.

Auditors in Venice are taking Mr. Calatrava and several engineers to court because of cost overruns and what they see as an excessive need for repairs on Mr. Calatrava’s Ponte della Costituzione, a footbridge across the Grand Canal. The region’s audit court has asked Mr. Calatrava to return more than a million euros. The first hearing is scheduled for November.

Meanwhile, Venice is also asking judicial authorities to find out whether Mr. Calatrava was responsible for some cost overruns because he did not promptly supply the drawings needed to begin finding a builder.

As for Valencia’s cost overruns, the politician Mr. Blanco said in a recent interview that one contributing issue might be that Mr. Calatrava’s designs appear to include few details. “Other architects, they know exactly the door handles they want, and where to buy and at what cost,” Mr. Blanco said. “But Calatrava is the opposite. His projects do not have this degree of precision. If you look at the files on the aquarium, which was built by someone else, they are fat. But there are just a couple of pages on the Calatrava projects.”
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