Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Valencia Loses its Shine...

Palau de las Artes Reina Sofia.


The Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences) is the 'crown-jewel' of modern Valencia. At the eastern end of the (now dry) River Turía bed, it stands like a collection of recently-landed space craft. The Museo de las Ciencias and the Hemisferic are impressive buildings, but the most spectacular of all is the Palau de las Arts Reina Sofia (the Queen Sofia Opera House). Designed by local architect Santiago Calatrava and opened in 2006, its white-tiled facade glitters brightly in the sunlight...


Museo de las Ciencias.



Hemisferic (left) and the Palau de las Artes Seina Sofia.


Well, it used to...

In 2013 parts of the tiled covering began to buckle, and then fall off. The cause of the problem (and therefore the target of the finger of blame) is fiercely disputed. Some point to recent high winds while others cite the heat, as if a modern retelling of the 'Sun verses Wind' fable was being played out in the centre of Valencia.  In an update to the tale, yet others blame 'the wrong type of glue' (used to stick the white ceramic tiles onto the steel shell).  

A decision was quickly taken to remove all the remaining tiles for safety reasons, and in little more than a fortnight a team of workers scaled the walls and ripped them off.

Before...















... and after.

As the financial crisis has hit Spain, Valencia has suffered more than many other areas. The City of Arts and Sciences was dubbed an expensive 'white elephant' by many even before the economy collapsed. But Calatrava's problems don't end in Valencia; a string of other 'prestige' projects are also turning sour. 

The 'Ysios' winery, near the Basque town of Laguardia, has a stunning undulating roof... which is leaking. In Oviedo, his Palacio de Congresos cost him over 3 million euros in compensation when part of the roof collapsed. The Zubizuri bridge in Bilbao has had its glass walkway covered in black matting to prevent people slipping on it when it rains, while another bridge (over the Grand Canal in Venice) needed expensive repair work and has provoked a 4 million-euro claim from the Italian Treasury. 

Ysios winery's beautiful (leaking) roof.

Back in Valencia, a local politician (Ignacio Blanco) has a website showcasing what he claims to be Calatrava's (many) faults. http://www.calatravatelaclava.com/ loosely translates as 'Calatrava bleeds you dry'. 

The 'starchitect' isn't taking all this criticism passively. Far from it; the Spanish newspaper El País recently reported that he's moved all his money to Switzerland. http://elpais.com/elpais/2012/12/12/inenglish/1355319328_137072.html

So, if the local Valencian is planning on making himself (and his money) scarce, at least he will leave the city of Valencia with a reminder of the times when the money flowed freely. 

Maybe not a such white elephant after all, more a traditional grey one.



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