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City to Sue Calatrava Over Roof Issues

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

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World-famous Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava is once again facing a legal dispute over alleged design issues.

Numerous reports say the 62-year-old architect’s native city of Valencia, Spain, plans to sue him for the rapid deterioration of an eight-year-old opera house at the City of Arts and Sciences complex.

Sergio Calleja / Flickr / SA 2.0 license

Officials have closed the Santiago Calatrava-designed opera house in Valencia, Spain, until further notice, after sections of the roof fell off in high winds, reports said.

This is the latest in a string of legal actions against the architect, well-known for his modern bridges, airports and museums. Just seven months ago, a court in Oviedo, Spain, ordered Calatrava to pay about $4.3 million due to flaws in one of his designs there.

He also faces legal action from another Spanish client, who demands that the architect pay for a perpetually leaky roof at a winery he designed.

Opera House Roof Falls

The new case involves el Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia. The opera house opened its doors in 2005, but had to shut them last month and cancel performances due to the building’s crumbling roof, according to reports on the case.

High winds reportedly caused sections of its ceramic mosaic tile roof to fall off the building. The roof began wrinkling last year, reports said.

City authorities blame the deterioration on Calatrava, saying that Valencia would sue the architect and his firm for the cost of the repairs, various reports said.

The officials also noted that the opera house would remain shuttered until it was considered safe, according to reports. A technical evaluation of the state of the building is underway, reports relate.

‘White Elephant’ Centerpiece

El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia—nicknamed “The White Elephant”—is the centerpiece of the “largest cultural-recreational complex in Europe,” according to Valencia’s official travel website. 

In addition to the opera house, the City of Arts and Sciences complex features a science museum, planetarium, open-air oceanographic park, a covered plaza, a suspension bridge, and a sculpture garden. The showcase structures were built on reclaimed land in the city's former port.

Sergio Calleja / Flickr / SA 2.0 license

The City of Arts and Sciences was constructed on reclaimed land in the city's former port. It features a science museum, opera house, planetarium (pictured), open-air oceanographic park, a covered plaza, a suspension bridge, and a sculpture garden.

The entire complex, which cost more than $1 billion to construct, was co-designed by Calatrava and architect Felix Candela. Reports do not indicate whether Candela will be also named in the city’s lawsuit.

Both Calatrava and the city of Valencia have faced heavy criticism for the project, which ended up costing four times the original price tag; Calatrava was paid close to $136 million for his work, reports said.

Legal Issue in Oviedo

In June 2013, a court in Oviedo, Spain, ordered Calatrava to pay about $4.3 million due to roof problems and a partial collapse in the Palacio de Congresos, which was completed in 2011.

There, the roof of the gigantic white steel and concrete structure was not movable, as intended, due to technical problems in the design. The owner said he had spent roughly $9.3 million in attempt to repair the roof, but eventually had to leave it fixed, according to reports.

Palacio de Congresos
Jsmq / Wikimedia Commons

Calatrava was ordered to pay about $4.3 million for roof problems and a partial collapse in the Palacio de Congresos in Ovideo, Spain. The building opened in 2011.

Moreover, the building partially collapsed “in spectacular fashion” during construction in 2006, and the owner footed the repair bill of $4.61 million.

Calatrava had initiated the legal action, demanding that the owner pay him outstanding fees, reports said. The judge agreed that the architect that was owed some $9.7 million in unpaid fees for the project, but also accepted some of the claims made by the owner.

Winery Roof Leaks

Another case against the architect involves a Spanish winery owner, who argues that Calatrava owes him $2 million to hire a new architect to fix a perpetually leaky roof.

Calatrava designed the winery 12 years ago for Domecq, reports said, and has sent teams to attempt to fix the roof with no success.


Tagged categories: Aesthetics; Architecture; Business matters; Color + Design; Design; Laws and litigation; Roofing materials; Santiago Calatrava

Comment from Stephen Falk, (1/15/2014, 4:28 PM)

This is a recurring problem with the radical designs proposed by the starchitects who rely on their name and the clients are so enamoured by them this is what happens. I can only hope that the Transportation Center at the Trade Center "keeps water out" and remains structurally stable.

Comment from Phil Kabza, (1/16/2014, 8:09 AM)

Unfortunately, the people who are forced to pay the bills for this artful indulgence are seldom the people who select the architect. Given that this architect's failures are now widespread public knowledge, the defrauded patrons and taxpayers should turn to the boards of directors or elected officials who retained the architect and expect them to personally pay for the cost overruns and repairs necessitated by this wanton disregard for the public trust that is part of most less-glamorized architects' day to day practice.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (1/17/2014, 9:18 AM)

The Calatrava "Signature Bridge" in Dallas was closed recently due to the ice forming on the cables and plummeting onto the roadway. Unlike most cabled bridges which have cables in the center median or off to the side, these cables cross over the roadway itself. Admittedly, it is visually striking.

Comment from peter gibson, (1/20/2014, 4:38 PM)

This stupid architect wanted somebody else to pay for his artistic experiment.

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