Plagued by Problems: The Magnificent Structures of Santiago Calatrava

Plagued by Problems: Santiago Calatrava

Construction workers are due to start removing the crumbling mosaic facade of Valencia’s opera house on Monday.

Considered by some to be the greatest Spanish architect, sculptor and structural engineer Santiago Calatrava Valls was born in Valencia. Regarded as one of the most reputed designers, engineers and architects of the world, Calatrava’s principal office is in Zürich, Switzerland and has presence in Paris, Valencia, and New York City. Calatrava is also a prolific painter who exhibited his artistic work, entitled “Santiago Calatrava in 2003, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

However the latest controversy surrounding the Spanish architect is the structural problems of the Queen Sofía Palace of the Arts. The opera house, one of Calatrava’s flagship projects, is at the heart of the massive City of Arts and Sciences complex that he designed to help transform his native city of Valencia.  Mr. Calatrava’s opera house has been closed since last month because of a risk of falling tiles.


The Alamillo Bridge, which is located in Seville, Andalucia in Spain, was planned in 1989 as part of the infrastructure improvements for Expo 92 and accomplished in 1992. The bridge was built with the intention of creating two symmetrical bridges on either side of the island, and ended up constructing singular design that proved most striking and effective.

Mr. Calatrava covered the opera house with thousands of tiny mosaic tiles, using a technique made famous over a century earlier by Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona. But the Valencia authorities threatened to sue Mr. Calatrava last month after chunks fell off in high winds, forcing the closing of the building ahead of Christmas performances and the cancellation next month of Puccini’s “Manon Léscaut,” directed by Plácido Domingo.

Máximo Buch, an official from Valencia’s regional government responsible for economic affairs, on Friday announced that Mr. Calatrava and the building companies responsible for the opera house had agreed to remove the fragile tiles and cover the cost of the repair work, estimated at around 3 million euros, or $4 million. Instead of replacing the mosaic tiles, the building is to be painted white, at least as a temporary solution to allow the opera to reopen and resume its season late next month.

A spokesman for Mr. Calatrava said late Sunday that the cause of the problems was unknown. The spokesman added that Mr. Calatrava and the construction companies were working together “to ensure the safety of visitors, minimize disruption to the opera house schedule and reach a permanent solution to the mosaic surfacing.”

One of Mr. Calatrava’s other projects, the PATH subway station in Lower Manhattan, is close to completion. But Mr. Calatrava has recently also made the headlines because of problems linked to his past projects, either because of budget overruns or construction defects.

Valencia’s opera house opened eight years ago. Since then, the City of Arts and Sciences has added significantly to Valencia’s mountain of debt, at a time when Spain has been struggling on the front line of the euro crisis. Originally budgeted at €300 million, the complex — the world’s largest collection of Mr. Calatrava’s work, which also includes a performance hall, a bridge, a planetarium, and a science museum — ended up costing three times as much. Mr. Calatrava was paid about €94 million for the project.

Separately, Mr. Calatrava is in court because of cost overruns at a footbridge in Venice. The owners of a winery that Mr. Calatrava built in the Álava region of Spain are also suing him because of a leaking roof.


Gare do Oriente or Lisbon Orient Station, one of the primary transport hubs in Lisbon, Portugal, was completed in 1998 for the Expo ’98 world’s fair. Gare do Oriente, located in Parque das Nações, is one of the world’s largest stations with 75 million passengers every year. It comprises of a Lisbon Metro station, provincial train hub, a high-speed, commuter, a shopping centre, national and international bus station, as well as a police station. Oriente Station is one of the world’s largest stations, with 75 million passengers per year which makes it as busy as Grand Central Terminal in New York.

Source: New York Times


About Art Selectronic

Art Selectronic is an artist-led initiative, that supports grass-roots contemporary art that remains unswayed by fashion, trends or the whims of government funding. The project involves ongoing research into the placing of contemporary art, it’s audiences and it’s relationship to the everyday. We place great emphasis on context. Our mission is to support new works of contemporary art and foster an audience from a wide range of backgrounds.
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