Spanish architect Calatrava fined €3.3m

‘Starchitect’ ordered to pay damages for Spanish building design faults

Sat, Jun 8, 2013, 01:00

He is one of Spain’s most international figures, designing buildings and structures across the globe in cities such as Jerusalem, Calgary, Dublin and Venice. His supporters hail him as a 21st-century heir to the genius of Gaudí and yet Santiago Calatrava’s career has been plagued by controversy and acrimony.

And the Valencia-born architect is again in the limelight for the wrong reasons, after a judge yesterday ordered him to pay €3.3 million to the company that manages the Exhibitions and Conventions Centre in Oviedo, due to faults in Mr Calatrava’s design.

Paradoxically, the court case originates in a suit the architect brought against the firm Jovellanos XXI, for allegedly failing to pay him his full fee for the building in the northern region of Asturias. While the court found in Mr Calatrava’s favour on that count, it also accepted the company’s allegation that the building has flaws.

Jovellanos XXI owed the architect €7.3 million, Judge Pablo Martínez-Hombre found, but Mr Calatrava was found liable to pay compensation of €10.6 million – leaving him to pay the difference. Calatrava once described the huge white building as “a forum for discussion and progress”, but its construction has been hindered by problems. Part of its structure collapsed in 2006, and Jovellanos XXI held back his fee when it emerged that a hydraulic sliding façade did not work.

Cost ballooned
The Oviedo centre cost €360 million, five times more than the original budget, according to Asturian newspaper La Nueva España.

Mr Calatrava has received major international awards, such as a gold medal from the American Institute of Architects and he has built a string of high-profile structures, including Dublin’s James Joyce Bridge and Samuel Beckett Bridge.

But this is not the first time he has faced criticism or had a legal dispute with a client. A bridge he designed over Venice’s Grand Canal took over a decade to complete, and its cost ballooned, before being questioned as impractical and dangerous. He successfully sued the authorities of Bilbao for altering his Zubi-Zuri bridge after it was deemed unsafe.