Calatrava Must Pay: Spanish Architect Loses Latest Legal Saga

Development, International, Newsletter
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
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Calatrava’s Palacio de Congresos in Oviedo (Nacho/flickr)

Santiago Calatrava has been ordered by a Spanish court to pay $4 million for problems plaguing a municipal building he designed in Oviedo in Northwest Spain. While the final fee is lower than an initial ruling, such legal problems have become something of an unfortunate calling card for the Spanish architect.

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(Daniel Defco/flickr)

The Palacio de Congresos de Oviedo was completed in 2011 and features the soaring forms and white ribs that tend to populate Calatrava’s work. The suit stems from issues involving the construction of the building as well as the project’s final budget, which exceeded original estimates.

Calatrava’s fairly loose interpretation of budgetary restrictions has come under fire throughout the architect’s prolific career. He is also in the midst of a legal battle regarding an opera house in Valencia whose final cost of $455.6 million—four times greater than its original budget—was not enough to ensure structural stability for more than a decade. Part of Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences that the architect had a major role in designing, the concert hall is the biggest fish in a sea of problems besetting the complex.

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Calatrava’s problematic opera house (Paul Turner/flickr)

Practicality has also not always been a strong suit for the architect. Bridges in Venice and Bilbao have both developed reputations for the extreme slipperiness among other issues. An airport he designed for the latter city was found lacking in a sheltered arrivals hall, a problem that Calatrava himself was forced to remedy.

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Calatrava’s slippery bridge in Bilbao (Maria Giovanna Colli/flickr)

And the list continues. Assuming all goes according to plan, by 2015 New Yorkers will be able to witness what may be the zenith of the troubled beauty that has come to define Calatrava’s works. The World Trade Center Transporation Hub represents his avian aesthetic at its most striking. However, the project’s completion date is six years behind schedule, while its initial budget of $2 billion has since swelled to $4 billion.

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World Trade Center Transportation Hub (Port Authority of New York & New Jersey)

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