A Star Architect Leaves Some Clients Fuming

The architect Santiago Calatrava is collecting critics as buildings develop problems.

Comments: 207

  1. The old saying, "form follows function" seems to have been forgotten. These works are what you get when form is designed to please the eye only.

  2. Surprised they didn't mention what I think is one of this guy's buildings going up in London where reflections off the glass have melted a car.

  3. That's by a different architect (Rafael Viñoly).

  4. The architect responsible for that mess is Rafael Vinoly. Same hubris, different person.

  5. That building was designed by Rafael Vinoly.

  6. Why does the Port Authority refuse to discuss the cost overruns?--are they not, by law,
    to make public their records?--Is this why mass transit is becoming more expensive every 2 years?

  7. Port Authority ...taxes everyone, accountable to no one.

  8. A planned Chicago building will likely never be built. Thank Heavens!

  9. Why did it take so long for this article to be written? These problems have been going on for years. Of course, anyone with any knowledge of the Port Authority can only shake their head. The PA was fated to choose the most expensive, impractical plan and then to make stunning statements like, 'the initial cost projections were not realistic' as if they factored that into their planning.

  10. Challenged and dysfunctional.....the two most succinct and honest words to describe the Port Autthority....although one could also add incompetent, corrupt and arrogant.

  11. Another Spanish architect, Antoni Gaudi, is known for the wild forms if his works. What is really impressive about them is the great attention to being inviting and comfortable for the residents, for having physically strong and cost effective construction techniques, and for being energy efficient. Those elements are where the really great architects show their stuff. Apparently Calatrava's talent is superficial.

  12. Are there no review committees? If his files are so thin, surely someone or some other firm must supply detailed, working drawing. That being said, yes, some designs pay little attention to the actual use of the building--that's why they're built by "starchitectures" whose egos are bigger than their designs.

  13. Who is on these review committees? Shouldn't structural engineers have enough votes to make the decision? Why do we waste taxpayer money on egomaniacs? Surely it's possible to have beautiful designs that also work structurally.

  14. Another set of egomaniacs are on the review committees.

  15. Calatrava IS also structural engineer.

  16. Some of Frank Lloyd Wright's designs were also problematic. I remember what one of my art instructors told me - Great architects design the stairwells, elevators, and other functional elements first, then the eye catching exteriors.

  17. At least Wright's buildings are beautiful. Who wouldn't want to live in Fallingwater.

  18. Ultimately, supply and demand determines where this goes. There may be some hubris (in clients assuming that the overruns will not be on their project) at play, however.

  19. These starchitects, and there are quite a number of them (likely one of them is coming to your city soon!), have harmed the profession. I'd like to hear what the people who commissioned the projects have to say about what they got, why they choose the starchitect they did and why they approved the design that got built. The committees are abettors, then they disappear. The press, both popular and professional, is just as culpable, with their fawning prose. You'd think the architectural press would call the starchitects on their monumental egotism and practical incompetence.

  20. Starchitects is a word?

  21. Have "Starchitcts" hurt the profession any more than the "service architects" who made all those prisons and wal-marts? I'm so tired of this term "starchitect" but I'm more worn out by all the people who continue to call themselves architects while turning out nothing but disposable box after disposable box or, worse yet, more prisons or un-navigatable colourfully dull hospitals.

    Calatrava is a clown and a terrible engineer/architect but he he's trying to use his brain and make more of the built environment than just cash for himself.

    Everyone please remember that this "Starchitect" has a PhD in Engineering and only a diploma in architecture. Maybe this is what happens when we let engineers play architect?

  22. O brave new word...

  23. As in many professions, ego and showmanship wins out. First thing is, you gotta make the sale. Calatravava isn't unique in this regard, the prime example being Frank Lloyd Wright. How much did the recent re-construction of the NY Guggenheim cost? Wasn't it closed for a year to accomplish this? A fabulous space but a crummy art museum.

  24. Sir, the Guggenheim:

    Have you actually stood inside it? That building is artful, inspired, and easily stands the test of time. Walking from the bottom to the top, along the molded sinuous spiral, is part of the experience of the building.

  25. The Guggenheim is a masterpiece, that not surprisingly needs work after a half century. I do agree it is not ideal as an art museum, but sure beats the old Whitney upside down shoe boxes.

    I doubt Calatravava's works will survive 60 years after their completion.

  26. The museum was not closed, to the best of my knowledge.

  27. One of the problems in starchitecture is that the practical problems of buildings are often ignored and very costly to resolve. For some reason, people who engage these designers never really want to think about how are they going to be built and contractors find themselves faced with enormously difficult and complex challenges that architects blithely dismiss as not their responsibility. Talk to the workers in the field, the strugglers on the ground and you will get much closer to the truth than you will in the airy fairy art pages. Calatrava is not the only villain in this story. It is the gaga fault of those who court image over function including the fawning critics who build reputations.

  28. Why can't we all just work together? The structural engineers, builders, union reps, users/residents (!) should all be on the team in the discovery phase.

  29. Can we call him Laddy Gaga?

  30. Egads -- One does not need to be a world class architect to know that really large mechanical roofs are gonna break.

    And frequently.

    To be fair to Mr Calatrava. Most architects of name and rank these days are creating the same tedious "glass box" over and over again. And of course these semi-famous architects applaud each other, even though we are all looking at, sigh, another tall glass box, or squat glass box.

  31. $4 BILLION FOR A SUBWAY STATION!?!? Are you out of your mind, NYC? I love good architecture, but this cost is obscene. NYC could have offered every student in New York a scholarship to college for that money.

  32. Indeed, doesn't this point to everything that is wrong with New York right now?

  33. For some reason, he still gets hired. Also, for some reason, those who hire him do not review the plans. Wouldn't airport authorities, or at least a project manager, just take a little look-see at the plans, at least before the shovels come out, to make sure there are at least no FATAL FLAWS? The glass footbridge. You don't have to be a genius to see the fatal flaw there. To me this is just as much a tale of institutional failure as it is one of grand but flawed design.

  34. Sadly, this problem is not confined to star architects. Generally the common denominator is that an organization is hiring the architect. When there is no actual personal financial responsibility to insure that the building is designed with structural integrity, budgetary considerations and functionality in mind, money and completion dates tend to be extraordinarily underestimated. It is actually extremely simple to build a structure of great beauty. Why do you think architects of great fame can run around the world throwing up projects of such immense proportions at such a dizzying speed? I recently left one of the largest University's by building endowment in the country and the problem is endemic.

  35. "extremely simple"? Please send me your portfolio.

  36. George Costanza: Have you seen the new addition to the Guggenheim?
    Lois: You did that?
    George Costanza: Yep. And it didn't take very long either.

  37. "How can you make mistakes like that?". Great question. Why anyone paid an architect who neglected to put in elevators for the disabled, or who didn't check to make sure everyone in a theater had an unobstructed view is beyond me.

  38. I blame the suckers who engage these "designer" architects far more than the architects themselves. The problems with buildings designed by Gehry, Calatrava, Foster et. al. are part of the public record. The massive cost overrun on their projects and problems with the finished product are certainly not a secret. Then why does the Port Authority, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the city of Valencia etc. continue to hire these charlatans?

    In learning about basic architecture many decades ago in university I was taught that form follows function. That basic tenant of the trade was seemingly lost many years ago. We all are paying for it now.

  39. It appears this guy designs monstrosities for a living. I looked at many pictures of the buildings / bridges mentioned in this article, and almost without exception found them overbearing, hideous blots on their landscapes. The lone standout, the "twisted torso" has an oddly repellent name reminiscent of an auto accident.

  40. You can't house everything in Butler buildings.

    At this point everyone should know that large-scale public projects have cost control issues and that letting the architect control too many aspects of a project causes problems. Creative people can have large egos, what a surprise!! Deal with it. Much responsibility for these problems falls to others besides Calatrava.

    The next time you visit a new city, try to find a guidebook that suggests you go see the buildings that came in on time and under budget.

  41. Virtually every comment asks, "Were there no review committees?", "Aren't structural engineers given the final decision?". Obviously, the answer appears to be no or not enough or not focused on functionality and endurance. To the extent that grand public architecture has drifted into the realm of exorbitant cost overruns followed by systematic dysfunction followed by recrimination, ducking accountability and multiple lawsuits, it reflects in a grand way the degeneration of what we think of as "Civilization" into form, image and Big $ over substance. But, hey, it's "Art", so who cares if the toilets work? $4 BILLION for a subway station??

  42. The clients have nobody to blame but themselves for hiring a starchitect and putting blind faith and trust in the prima donna.....they didn't review the drawings to see whether there was an arrivals hall in an airport? They didn't realize obstructed seats in an opera house? No one noticed that there were inadequate exit stairs nor disability access? It just sounds so ludicrous, but I guess it must be sadly true.......and that Calatrava is one heck of a salesman!

  43. A salesman indeed. He sold Dallas on a $300-million bridge over the sluggish ol' Trinity River that hardly anyone drives over, but it sure is pretty! And as if that weren't enough, the city has voted to fork over another $110 million for TWO MORE - bike and pedestrian bridges this time. Which hardly anyone will use. But as has been noted many times, Dallas is all about style over substance - the glitzier the better, even if it isn't needed and doesn't work all that well. At least the brige doesn't leak....

  44. The failures of the latest starchitecture are long and documented. Does anyone remember the boondoggle at MIT known as the Stata Center, designed by Frank Gehry? Leaks, cracks, mold, lawsuits. That's what happens when clients seek the latest attention-grabbing fad. Architects and critics should focus on competence rather than "statements."

    At least the entire complex wasn't given over to Libeskind, who is a master of the art of creating eyesores.

  45. At MIT before Strata there was Kresge. The auditorium was fairly new when I was a student there in the architecture department for a couple of years (never a grad - a long story). Kresge's roof is a section of a sphere supported on three equidistant points. The story that goes with it is that in the mid-60's an architecture student wrote his thesis on a proof that this roof was inherently structurally unsound. He was denied his degree and, as was wont to happen in those times, was drafted and went off to Vietnam. While he was there the Kresge roof began to come apart in the way he had predicted. His thesis was retrieved from the dustbin and he was granted a degree in absentia. Never could get the story confirmed, but the roof leaks were real.

    And then there was the wind tunnel under the Green Building...

  46. Citing anyone else for being responsible for cost overruns on anything the Port Authority does is ridiculous...they are one of the most inept public or private entities for controlling costs...or anything they do!

    And if your architect is more "dreamer" than "technician", get yourself a collaborating engineer or architect...one with less imagination, but someone to make the "trains run on time"...

    I'll still take Calatrava's vision over Trump's any time.

  47. I'm glad you our so generous with the public's money. Its the commuters who are paying for the Port Authority's mistakes as it continues to raise tolls.

  48. A very dark reminder of bad architecture is the the former World Trade Center and its twin buildings.

    I design and build small homes but I was horrified watching those towers being built. They had little internal support. Instead of honey combing the interior walls to support each other, there was only the center elevator shaft and the exterior walls holding up huge, heavy slabs of concrete.

    This was supposedly so businesses could be flexible about floor space. But when the outer walls were breeched on 9/11, the sheer weight of the floors above caused the buildings to collapse spectacularly.

    Very bad designs. My husband used to work there and I said, 'Find another job, this building is too dangerous' and he left. As did a girlfriend working for the Port Authority on the highest floor.

    Bad architecture is deadly. Buildings do collapse during storms or earthquakes when build badly. Parking garages are notorious killers. Designing for snow loads has been ignored all over the world when architects want looks over practicality and buildings collapse.

    Designing things while ignoring nature and physics always leads to tragedy. Building walkways that are slippery is criminal. Building towers that have minimal internal support is criminal. All this can be avoided if structural engineers have a bigger say in reviewing submissions for construction.

    http://emsnews.wordpress.com

  49. Mr. Calatrava is also a structural engineer.

  50. Calatrava has a PhD in Structural Engineering from the ETH in Zurich.
    Maybe we should suggest that this sort of thing can be avoided if thoughtful, talented, curious people attend to the project rather than "structural engineers".

    Calatrava is a bad architect whose time is running out quick.

  51. I agree there is a need for engineers for checks and balances, but every building has an estimate and more than just the architect working on it. So you have to factor in the team. In the final analysis, the buyer should take some responsibility for this as it's common sense to have these checks and balances. Your contract then specifies how to stay on track and what happens if you don't.

    On the WTC comments, I disagree. Those buildings stood for decades and would have continued to do so Viewing their design in hindsight isn't fair. Building with the expectation that the structure will be targeted by giant flying bombs wasn't an issue at the time it was designed. Even so, it was still designed with the idea that it could take a hit by a Boeing 707, a reasonable assumption for the time it was designed.

    If you study any building you can figure out how to take it down. It's the physics of gravity. But here it wasn't the structural integrity of the design or building. It was a foreign object used in a studied fashion as a guided missile, just like a cruise missile, to bring it down.

    Even designs specifically meant to withstand such things and so designed can still be damaged or destroyed by a studied foe. History is rife with those examples ranging from the Trojan Horse of Troy to kamikaze aircraft.

    The mistake is assuming that evil or insane people are also stupid. The most dangerous ones are often the smartest of the herd and hard to stop.

  52. $4 billion for one subway station? There's just no way. You could build several plus a subway line for that.

  53. Not in NYC, the East Side subway is clocking in at around $20bn and counting.

  54. No you can't. The 2nd Ave Subway will cost $17 billion.

  55. Aside from the 2nd Ave Subway comments, the WTC Transportation Hub is not simply one subway station.

    It's access to 11 different subway lines, the PATH system, and the Battery Park Ferry. It's underground connections to basically every building in the World Trade Center as well as the World Financial Center across the way. It'll also have high end retail and restaurant space.

    In addition, when thinking about the cost of this project, you have to think about the complexities of the surrounding construction site.

    I'm in no position to say if it's worth what they're paying, but simplifying it to "$4 billion for one subway station" is naive.

    http://www.panynj.gov/wtcprogress/transportation-hub.html

  56. Many architects see putting form before function as an act of courage--something to be praised. It is part of seeing their work as art rather than as a place where people do things.

    It's largely an obnoxious viewpoint, especially when people are breaking their hips or standing in the cold due to bad--but beautiful--design.

  57. The clients of Mr. Calatrava are not naive, nor are they likely to be uninformed about the problems his designs have caused. So, one must ask, why do they select him to design their buildings?

    Humans chase fame. Some individuals may be less susceptible or even immune to the excitement of touching the hem of the notorious. But those who wield power (i.e., the politicians, fame-mongers, and wannabes who generally select an architect for an important public building, or at least who derive benefit from the association with a famous architect, at least at the outset) know that much of their base is founded on the sands of perception. Association with a star-chitect ratifies personal power derived from public attitude. The need for self-aggrandizement feeds on cultural and political power. And such need must recognize that perception, however evanescent, must be fed.

    These clients are forewarned, though they may not want to hear their own judgment. And their egos depend on popular support, not always discerning in its own judgment. The cycle is vicious. But, occasionally, the extraordinary quality of genius survives.

    So, bad buildings may be a cost of cultural ambition, however squalid its origin. And great buildings occasionally arise from this wrestling in the mud of public opinion.

  58. How does this man keep getting commissions? Utility must go hand in hand with design. Aren't the clients, the government agencies also responsible? The WTC transportation center is a major design element, will it be a major albatross?

  59. As difficult as it was to construct the Calatrava's sun shade, there is no sight in Milwaukee like driving east on Wisconsin Avenue through downtown and seeing the eight-pronged Mark di Suvero sculpture in front of the shade fully opened. It looks like a gigantic bird being barely restrained as it tries to take off.

  60. The Calatrava addition to the Art Museum here in Milwaukee also cost more than projected, but it is breathtakingly beautiful and a real addition to the city and almost universally admired. I recall reading how construction workers enjoyed the challenges presented in building it and came away feeling a lot of satisfaction with their labors. My family has also visited Valencia, and the City of Arts and Sciences is really something to see. It is well worth visiting. If you do, try to stay in the old section of Valencia which is very charming. It is also right on the Mediterranean which adds to its attraction. My family also got to see (one of the benefits of having 2 children who became fluent in Spanish by studying in Spain and Argentina) the Puente de la Mujer (Spanish for Bridge of the Woman) in Buenos Aires. You can google all these sites and see how spectacular they are.
    I am probably even less qualified to comment on business than I am on architecture, but why isn't there some provisions built into the contract to deal with cost overruns and subsequent defects in workmanship?

  61. Mr Calatrava's structure in Valencia is an abomination, plain and simple. The building has no function whatsoever, except maybe as a monument to the architect's outsized ego. What were the Spaniards thinking, especially after the triumph of Frank Gehry's Guggenheim in Bilbao? Valencia will save a lot of money in the long run if the just bulldozed the dreadful eyesore. It is a white elephant on a former riverbed, where the costs of maintenance and upkeep are too prohibitive to justify keeping it. During a visit following a recent rainstorm, the 'roof' leaked in myriad places, and buckets we scattered in various places to catch the water. Dreadful!!!

  62. Stunning photos of the station! - Worth every penny!

  63. Please remain stunned Mick!

  64. Beautiful things are expensive and the more remarkable they look, the more difficult the engineering to accomplish them. Take Calatrava's Brise d' Soleil wings on the Milwaukee Art Center that move with the sun to shade the building -- they had never been built before and had to be completely developed de novo by the engineering firm hired to make them.
    Architecture is a constant battle with the advances in materials, the cost of manufacturing components, and the rise of expectations by the client. Someone mentioned Frank Lloyd Wright, whose work was groundbreaking at the time, but gave way to spearhead the use of new materials - plywood, concrete forms, etc. - that are commonplace elements of home construction today.
    Santiago Calatrava seems to be racking up his own vocabulary of costly overruns and designs oversights that are shocking to the average bean counter. Those however are the cost of hiring a world famous architect to develop a project that feeds the soul with its beauty, and advances the building arts with its innovation. The clients ask for brilliant inspiring designs that enliven the space they occupy, perhaps for hundreds of years, which may be the lifetime for such works of art that serve as public spaces. But like the children that eat too much candy at Halloween, their guts will ache from their own indulgence. These are self-inflicted consequences of transforming the gossamer wing beauty of an architect's designs into metal, fabric, concrete and glass.

  65. anyone can draw a stunning line on paper and call it greatness, but when practicality is not addressed what is the purpose of that line

    thankfully the city of denver parted ways with this man after paying him millions to come up with a stunning design for a hotel airport, someone must have seen the problems already starting and realized it was time for him to go, yet will a multi million dollar pay off

    we too have a "great" architect in my little town who designs some of the most complicated homes possible, people pay much more for his design and construction costs sometimes we question the cost and the practicality of lots of snow and ice buildup in roof valleys and the problems that this will cause down the road, but people are willing to pay

  66. There is nothing extraordinary about cost overruns. EVERY building goes over budget. EVERY architect, whether a star or not, goes over budget.

    Overruns are caused by a system that awards the construction contract to the company that low-balls the bid and charges for every change order during the project...

  67. Great and interesting things are always difficult to do.

    When was the last time you heard a tourist say, "Oh, we went to New York and got our picture taken in front of the (yadda yadda) building because while it's nondescript, it came in well under budget."

  68. Many of his buildings indeed please the eye, but they have to please the pocketbook and fill in a satisfying way the function for which they are to be built.

    There probably aren't enough engineers or end-users on the review committees, and of course in the face of any "expert" many of us bow to their expertise in the face of their showmanship and ego. Shouldn't an architect designing an airport know what they essential parts are? Isn't that his/her job?

  69. In the town of Redding, CA, Calatrava built the Sundial Bridge, at considerable cost by the city and private parties to build something of architectural significance in a city that sorely needed a point of interest. Like the bridge in Bilbao, this pedestrian bridge is paved with glass tiles, both slippery in Winter and extremely hot in the Summer. It is now bowing and cracking in parts. This was a huge financial undertaking by the citizens of Redding, a noble effort really for this obscure town, and a real shame that Calatrava cannot seem to deliver on the basics of why we build huge public structures one the first place. This is a really a travesty, a huge waste of public resources, and an example of art and ego trumping common sense and functionality.I don't think you will find him on Angie's List anytime soon.

  70. The sundial bridge in Redding is the single most significant piece of man made art north of Sacramento. Contrary to Ms. Wilson's comment, the construction and architecture fees for the bridge were entirely borne by a private organization -- the city of Redding's burden was comparatively light.

    The bridge has been a huge magnet for visitors since it opened, The glass tiles mentioned are integral to the design in that they introduce light and movement from beneath; a visitor can easily walk the bridge, summer or winter, without needing to walk on them.

    There is a fine documentary on the construction of the bridge that gives prominent place to local voices that oppose the bridge. Many of the opponents change their minds by the end of the project. Mr. Calatrava left behind a fine piece of art.

  71. I trust you are including the ego of the clients as well. If that were not a big part of it.... there would not be any more future problems!

  72. The bridge in Redding was built with a private donation and minor public funds. It is a beautiful bridge and has attracted many tourists to the area who stop to take a walk over the bridge and through the park to which it leads. The problems you mention regarding the glass blocks are real, but not so significant as to disparage the bridge and its impacts on Redding.

  73. There are so many fabulous architects in this world who aren't famous, who don't need to be labeled a star, who would kill for the opportunity to design and create this project. Without the huge price tag, without the star drama too.

  74. I am a graphic designer. I think I have a triple responsibility in my role: 1) to communicate a message for my client 2) to do so in a manner that is economically feasible for my client. 3) hopefully, to do so in an artistically interesting and/or beautiful manner, partly so that the viewer will stay interested for a longer period of time, which should ultimately be good for my client.

    If i do not do fulfill all 3 of these, it is very easy for a client to hire another designer for the next graphics project. or even redo the first project.

    Architecture (which i studied once upon a time) is similar, but on a much grander scale. An architect must 1) design something that functions well, 2) do it in an economical way for the client, and 3) design something that is artistically interesting, especially since the building could be viewed and used by thousands of people a day.

    it seems from this article that Calatrava has been concentrating only on number 3. yes, his buildings are fascinating and interesting and beautiful, but he is not fulfilling all his responsibilities.

    of course, the difference in architecture is that, once the building is built, the client is stuck with it. it is not so easy to just go and get another architect.

  75. I have long been a fan of Calatrava's sculptural approach to design. He brings immagination, form, and a needed sense of the importance of aesthetics to his work. Of course, I assumed (as anyone would) that such a well-known practitioner, winning so many big time projects, would also be doing a great job, from top to bottom. And please correct me if I am wrong, but I believe Calatrava is an engineer and NOT an architect, so perhaps that could be a part of the problem: he is a technocrat who wants to be an artist... and somehow the key component about the client and the client's needs gets neglected.

    HOWEVER, when hiring out for any type of creative work, the CLIENT just about always gets what he is willing to get, and from my personal experience across a coupe of creative disciplines, I would say the dazzling light of the star designer may have overcome to good sense and responsibility of some of the clients mentioned in the article.

    So, as I get it, Calatrava has not failed as an architect because he is not an architect. He is a terrific designer and perhaps an even better salesman.

    Caveat emptor.

    You are only as good as your client will let you be. Ask anyone.

  76. The world does not need starchitects. We need visionary engineers.

    The Brooklyn Bridge was plagued with numerous cost and schedule overruns, yet it sounds like more people have slipped on Calatrava's absurd glass tile foot bridge than actually died during the Roebling's construction (around 20).

  77. Are you comparing deaths to slips??? (And has anyone ever bothered to research and publish the number of people who have fallen and hurt themselves over the years on the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian walkway?)

  78. When my parents built a house in Malaga, one architect designed the building and a second technical architect was in charge of the details and the construction. My parents didn't start construction until both architects were in agreement and the final budget was complete.

    That's the way to do things in Spain, but there is a very simple reason why the politicians in Valencia did something very different. Up until the recent crisis, local politicians made a lot of money under the table from building projects, so cost overruns were just one way for them to make even more money. The building boom was going to last forever, so they never worried about where the money would come from.

    Now that banks are in crisis and unemployment is past 25%, everything has changed, but I would say that Calatrava is part of a larger problem and Valencia is its poster child.

  79. Architects like Calatrava, who pass as genius today, are really just set designers. Their proposal drawings are dramatic enough to capture the untutored public imagination, all swoops and flourishes borrowed from science-fiction movies and Eero Saarinen. Whether people can actually use their structures in comfort and safety, however, is left to engineers -- if at all, it seems. As Frank Lloyd Wright famously growled at Philip Johnson, "Poor little Phily, always leaving his models out in the rain."

  80. Our bridge here went far over cost and is a suspension bridge only in name.Seems the architect needs to do some soul searching.

  81. Is there a publication like Architecture Digest or some trade magazine that does an annual rating of top architects with stats evaluating timely completion, delays, quality problems, technical problems 2 years after completion, 5 years after completion and so on. It'll bring more discipline to the profession and elevate the technical and practical aspects of these projects.

  82. Over my lifetime, many of my acquaintances have had the misfortune to use the service of an architect. All of projects ended in disaster (no exaggeration).

    Unrealistic and incomplete plans were are consistent themes in these failures. No understanding of building practice or codes, etc. Cost overruns to achieve quirky details that could have been realized via standard practice.

    Caveat Emptor !!!

  83. his buildings and bridges are directly linked to saarinen's twa terminal. they only can be called re-creations. the same formal vocabulary is used over and over. think of the astonishing variety of eero's work. and that of his disciples; this seems to be exactly the opposite.

  84. Mr. Calatrava is a megalomaniac, who has given a bad reputation to architects and architecture. He is one of the worst examples of the decadent cult of personality, which undermines the deeper and more elusive cultural and social responsibilities of professional work.

    The subtitle "A Devotion to Form" is incorrect. Form implies a more complex and integral relationship of structure and function, as different from mere 'shape' which may be simple superficial appearance — the latter is the trade mark of most of Calatrava's grandstanding.

    A reading of Immanuel Kant's "Critique of Judgment" could shed light on some of the more serious aspects of architectural critical analysis. But neither Mr. Calatrava, nor his misguided 'patrons' seem to have the time or mental disposition for such effort.

  85. Speaking of Kant, Schopenhauer may have nailed the problem with many of Calatrava's buildings when he pointed out that Kant was concerned with the analysis of abstract concepts, rather than with perceived objects. - i.e. "…he does not start from the beautiful itself, from the direct, beautiful object of perception, but from a judgment [someone’s statement] concerning the beautiful…" Like many of Frank Ghery's similarly problematic buildings, those of Calatrava tend to be conceptually striking rather than inherently (or usefully) "beautiful." This may account for the fact that they often look far better as two-dimensional images in glossy architectural magazine than they do in actuality. Like so much that is aesthetically overrated today, they are highly expensive objects of fantasy, not serious efforts to engage with the messy contingencies of reality.

  86. I traveled to Valencia to see the City of Science and was completely wowed. None of my friends understand the excitement of Calatrava coming to lower Manhattan.

    As a daily PATH rider stepping into the WTC station will be great, if everything with my ride goes well. When the PA raises fares or can't afford to replace cars or expand service I'll walk through that $4 billion station fuming.

    If the PA really wants to help Lower Manhattan get back on it's feet economically it should make getting there easier on weekends when the stores and restaurants are slow.

  87. While I don't wish to abdicate Mr Calatrava in full, I find the lack of nuance and context in the piece a bit more disconcerting. For example, an architect may have his budget, but it is buildings who bid on and win projects. My sense is that most of these clients bit off more than they could chew, commissioning designs that they couldn't build on a budget they had in mind. So, the architect is blamed by doing his job (I should note, I find a lot of his errors inexcusable), and the cities are left with buildings that were cheaply built simply because they failed to recognize the importance of quality construction.

    As further note, I would like to bring up the pair of Herzog & de Meuron projects in Spain, the forum in Barcelona and then museum in Madirid. Both, while not quite ten years old, appear to be falling apart with sloppy detailing at quite literally every joint. However, all of their projects in Switzerland/Germany/France/etc have been built with a quality that could only be classified as excellent.

    So, with this in mind one must ask, who exactly is to blame for these Spanish projects (be they of Calatrava or HdM), the architect, the client or the builder? Ms Daley seems to have only addressed in full a third of that question.

  88. Calatrava turned down an opportunity to be interviewed, whether he did so out of legal necessity or simple annoyance at the nature of the article. He therefore ceded his opportunity to provide context and is owed no other courtesy.

  89. There are many reasons why great architecture is difficult to build and often more expensive than we would like it to be. As people, we have given up on craft and quality in exchange for the utilitarian and flimsy, in all the things we use and live with. Our education system rewards manipulation of financial systems far more than the tradition of hard work and responsibility. Now, for great and inspirational buildings to happen requires a leap of faith on the part of architects, contractors and the planners with enough vision to see how places of assembly, of study or gateways to great cities inspire the very best things about people. Billions spent on a subway station, so what? Billions are spent blowing up sand in faraway countries just so you can drive large single passenger cars into already choked and depressing cities.
    Before you condemn Calatrava for his attempts at inspirational buildings, or Gehrey or Vinoly either, try to imagine a city designed by code officials, built by impoverished disgruntled laborers and at a budget designed to totally disrespect the people who use it. Cities that look like big box retail outlets, is that what you want?

  90. You are right but that kind of money one expects quality. I don't care how amazing the building looks if it lacks integrity ultimately it reflects in the architect and the architect should take responsibility when it's an obvious failure of his design or his design team.

  91. There's nothing inspirational about having nowhere to wait for a plane, or getting soaked during a concert or breaking your hip on a bridge.

  92. Naturally, the ONLY choice is between big box retail store-style structures designed by disgruntled laborers and bloated impractical temples to egomaniacal architects that are incidentally so inspirational that they offset the catastrophic damage they do to the budgets of cities and arts organizations. Great thinking. How about people like you stop falling for all the self-importance and hype of arts critics and these deluded architects and accept that function is at least as important as form? The greatest beauty is perceived when one sees beyond the surface of the structure and assesses how well it serves its purpose, too.

  93. Sometimes "form follows function" goes too far, the result being really boring structures. There is a middle way, especially when architects collaborate early on and nobody is a prima donna (i.e. starchitect).

  94. How has Mr. Calatrava stayed in business with such a disastrous track record?

  95. Six billion for one PATH train station? The construction cost of the entire original World Trade Center was $2.3 billion in 2013 dollars.

  96. The thing in Milwaukee technically is not a "mechanical roof." Its a brise soleil, more like a sun umbrella. The mechanical roof in Milwaukee is at Miller Park, the baseball field. Both are cool and help keep you that way.

  97. No self-respecting "starchitect" today can be bothered with such minor details as structural integrity or cost control. They're the big picture people who come up with the grand vision, and the details can go to the devil. God forbid that any of the underlings in their over-staffed offices dare to question the Master, nor the equally egotistical financiers who view the monstosity as their own personal monument.

    In Philadelphia we are cursed with the Kimmel Center by that great Argentinean starchitect Rafael Vinoly. It's an ugly, poorly laid out, shoddily built, and acoustically unsound concert hall. It went wildly over budget and contributed to the bankruptcy of the Philadelphia Orchestra. The same questions emerge as in this article. Where was the review committee? Where were the engineers who might actually question the Grand Design and say, "This won't work?" Where was someone whose brain might actually outweigh their ego?

    I almost went into hysterics when I heard the BBC story a couple of weeks ago about Vinoly's latest contribution to architecture, the Walkie-Talkie in London, which is angled in such a way that it is reflecting sunlight and broiling cars parked in front of it like bugs under a magnifying glass. In an interview in the Guardian, Vinoly said he "didn't realize it was going to be so hot," and blames the elevation of the sun in the sky for the problem.

    Will no one stop these men before they design again?

  98. I didn't connect the Kimmel Center disaster with the London disaster until I read your comment. Now I really understand what went wrong!

  99. What about the idiot the Times featured a few months ago who designed a building with sides like mirrors, not thinking for one second about the effects on birds flying into them.

    You could pick anyone off the street and they'd do a better job.

  100. A natural outgrowth of the hey-mom-look-at-me 20th century school of architecture.

  101. $ 4 billion for a subway station is impossible, I suggest we hire outside auditors to get our tax dollars back.

    This is a perfect case in why the government can never get enough money because the more they get the more they waste.

  102. "the new PATH train station at ground zero. It is expected to open in 2015 but is six years behind schedule and will cost $4 billion, twice the original budget. "
    Architect aside, who is the project manager on this project? Who is the construction manager? They should have been made to contractually sign-off on their ability to deliver the project on time and on budget. If, through their due diligence, they realized that it would be impossible to deliver, based on the incomplete design or complexity, they should have rejected the project and the design issues resolved prior to breaking ground. When given a blank check, anyone will take on a project knowing that once started, the cow will be milked and blame passed around until everyone retires. Zero accountability.

  103. While I agree with you, in my lifetime, I have never seen a huge project like this come in on time and not go over budget.

    It seems the problem with the whole ground zero project is that it had to be grander and better than anything before it. LIke we had to get our national pride back through the rebuilding. That kind of hubris is what kept Oakland from having an earthquake safe bridge for so many years. Oakland wanted a bridge as grand as the Golden Gate.

  104. Sherry: Oakland didn't "want a bridge as grand as the Golden Gate," the "Brown Brothers" (Jerry and Willy, respectively the former mayors of Oakland and San Francisco) wanted that bridge.

  105. I really must tip my hat off to Calatrava for apparently successfully convincing the seemingly totally inept and gullible Port Authority to locate all his unwanted mechanical equipment in other surrounding buildings. Why didn't Foster, Maki, SOM, Snohetta demand likewise and dump all their undesirables onto the subway station?

  106. Some buildings are simply ahead of their time. Technical elements have simply not caught. In 50 years everyone will remember these kinds of complaints, as just that, complaints. Similar bickering occured with the WTC and others..

  107. Years ago, when I was doing my Ph.D. at Rutgers, a fellow student presented her dissertation on college library designs. Her main conclusion: many architects design to win awards, and think little about users.

  108. With the help of a local architect, Alvar Aalto designed a library (a near-copy of ones he had done in Finland) for a Benedictine monastery south of Portland, Oregon. Its most obvious feature is that the circulation/entry desk has a commanding view of most of the interior. The architect gave way to his clients on one point: he hadn't intended to take advantage of the fine views from the back side of the building, lined with carrels.

    I visited on an open house/Aalto appreciation day. Everyone seemed fond of the building. Aalto may have been a good fit for Oregon. Finland was a country of great taste but not lavish budgets, and the monks were certainly not awash in money.

  109. This article is way off the mark. Large scale projects involve many people, the architect is just one member of the team. The only way these projects get approved, funded, and built is with the consensus of all.

    Cities hire Architects like Calatrava because they want something symbolic- like the Eiffel tower. He delivers.

  110. "He delivers."

    not if it leaks

  111. "Consensus of all"? Did they get YOUR consensus? Did they ask for consensus from the citizens of New York? No. Open your naive eyes and look past the baloney. The real reason cities hire architects like Calatrava is because they pay the biggest kickbacks to corrupt organizations like the Port Authority. $4 Billion for PATH station? Very funny! By the time it's completed in, say, 2022, maybe, it will cost more like $10 Billion. Calavatra isn't even fit to re-model an East Village studio apartment.

  112. The Eiffel Tower is still intact, still inspiring. Responsibly engineered, even for its time.

  113. These jobs are commissioned by the same people who are OK with the idea that a few daubs of oil paint on canvas can be worth tens of millions of dollars, so it's not surprising that they can be taken to the cleaners by these mountebanks.

  114. ironically his star status is dubious, he focuses on exaggerating formal fictions such as structural forces that are not even present at the scale he is working in, yet avoids a lot of the functional- use driven aspects of the building. Form making for impressing potential consumers is the most base abuse of architecture. Don't let him laugh all the way to the bank.

  115. Anyone who has worked in the corporate world knows this situation well. People often reach the top of their careers with a reputation for skill and competence, even though the evidence shows otherwise. They blame their errors on others, delegate much of the work and then take all the credit for the things that go well. They can often go years in high positions with high pay and still avoid the scrutiny routinely given to lower-level workers. They demean those below them and even engage in unnecessary cost-cutting measures that can put many people out of work and ruin lives. By the time they are discovered, the damage is done. Then, they are fired, leaving a mess in their wake. But, like cockroaches, they later emerge in another high-level position somewhere else.

    When an average person performs like this, they are usually quickly discovered and forced out. But stars such as Mr. Calatrava are somehow able to hang on. I'm reading the laundry list of errors and cost overruns and the fact that there is even debate over his reputation is mind-boggling.

  116. Larry Summers comes to mind.

  117. I thought you were criticizing the people managing the project instead of conveniently placing all of the blame squarely on the architect. There are hundreds of people involved on large projects.

  118. Reminds one strongly of the now-revered Frank Lloyd Wright. Over budget consistently, indifferent to clients' views, and the result was impractical structures early to crumble and costly to repair.

  119. And - as you say - he is now revered for the incredible structures and spaces he created that the world had never before quite seen....

  120. I am afraid all these people have gotten exactly what they paid for: a grander-than-life-look-what-I-can-design-and-I-am-ooking-to-be-immortalized-kinda-guy. So next time look for an architect that designs sound functional buildings as bubgeted.

  121. First principle for architects: Will the building work for the people who will use it? If not, your design is flawed.

  122. Reading this article just after the one about some 350 Sandy victims being evicted from hotels this week due to lack of city funds is a bit sickening.

  123. Similar incidents occurred with the WTC and others. Centuries from now few will remember these kinds of comments due to their near-sighted outlook. Much great architecture creates controversy for the conventionalists. If one can’t see the greatness, they are speaking out of envy.

  124. But everyone WILL remember the buildings, by famous architects or not, that leak, that crack, that the skin won't stay attached, that the windows pop out of as examples of what not to do: Falling Water and the John Hancock Tower spring to mind.

    These "beautiful failures" are the examples used in both History and Theory of Architecture, Construction, Professional Practice, Construction Law and even in design studios of architecture schools across the US and probably similar examples are used internationally.

    Greatness implies the ability too make a building that serves the purpose as it was intended as well as to be aesthetically pleasing. If it cannot do that, it is just a sculpture or a freshman studio maquette, erroneously built full scale.

  125. "Calatrava te clava" should be translated as Calatrava will nail you, not "will bleed you dry."

  126. "te clava", idiom for "will overcharge you", as in to charge an excessive price for something.

  127. I thought there was a global economic crisis going on? I thought Spain was one of the hardest-hit countries, with up to a quarter of its young people unemployed? Things not so peachy in NYC either? No problem for city officials spending taxpayers' money!!

  128. These are all projects that started well before the financial crisis. So, no, the city officials are just cleaning up after private greed.

  129. My kid goes to school in Valencia in the City of Arts and Sciences--I was there visiting and at first glance it is beautiful. Of course, just like our publicly financed--privately profiting sports stadiums here in the States, the bloom comes off the rose fairly quickly, and we still have to foot the bill. I am stunned, however, that a city such as Valencia, with its aesthetic sensibilities, would have deferred to an architectural autocrat, or, as it seems now, somewhat of a engineering flop...

  130. Calatrava is a Swiss educated engineer as well as an architect

  131. Seems to me the whole point of being an architect is working within the limits of your materials, the site and the customer's needs and budget, none of which he has done.

    It is ez to design sweeping buildings in a CAD program. Try Google's Sketchup for free if you want. Building it in actual reality with steel and concrete and glass is different.

    And leaving out stairways and entryways is absurd. Buildings are for people. He sounds like a successful flim-flam artiste, not an architect with an engineer's brains, an artist's sensibility and a Republican's grasp of the pocketbook.

    Efficiency in all areas is an important aspect of good design.

  132. If the structure is beautiful enough, people quickly forget that it was far over budget. They experience "what it is" in the here and now far more powerfully than they might remember "what it cost."

  133. You have a point. If I remember correctly, Rockefeller Center, the Crysler Building and the Empire State Building all went terribly over budget in their time as well, yet we wouldn't dream of having anything else in their places today.

  134. I don't know about the Chrysler building or Rockefeller Center, but I'm almost certain that the Empire State Building came in on time and under budget, and the construction timetable was extremely short.

  135. Any individual or organization insecure and/or rich enough to retain Calatrava for his embarrassing McDonald’s play land sculptitecture deserves what they get. When an architect lacks the ability to design/create a viable work within the context of an established architectural vernacular and budget then they fake it.

  136. in the fountainhead mold it sounds like?

  137. Architects like Calatrava are like bridal couples who spend too much on the wedding and nothing on the marriage going forward. A guaranteed failure is the usual outcome.

  138. Calatrava is an architectural Ponzi schemer who should be sharing a bunk bed in jail with Bernie Madoff.

  139. Anyone with a fat checkbook could walk into a grad school architectural studio, grab a pretty looking architectural model, and make an incredible looking structure. That does not make for great architecture or great buildings -- it makes for nice sculptures that are very large and very expensive. Great architecture -- even just good architecture -- requires so much more than that.

  140. Word gets around. He'll find his booking sheet shorten radically. Appearances in court can be time and money consuming. Committees looking to select architects should spend more time on due-dill and less time kneeling in admiration or soaking in his Reality Distortion Field.

  141. Having worked on many large projects, some for local councils & governments, it's both amusing & frustrating that there's so many misconceptions of an architect's roles & responsibilities.

    It's easy to blame the architect, particularly when it's one of note, but it's worth considering that most large projects are often commissioned, overseen & approved by large boards & committees.

    A design concept will barely make it beyond a scribble on a napkin without the approval of these various committees. Cost estimates will generally be provided by specialised firms, independent of the architect. Once the concept & third-party estimates has been approved, often by the people who later decry the cost, the real fun begins.

    Many large projects will have upwards of 10 specialists & consultants involved, including structural/hydraulic/mechanical/electrical/environmental engineers, egress consultants, landscape architects, and not insignificantly, estimators and/or cost engineers - firms who are specifically employed to cut away excess fat from the budget, often at the expense of the design elements that were part of what made the original (committee-approved) design special.

    Then there's contractors themselves, who employ their own cost-cutting measures more often than you'd like to think, regardless of what has been specified and approved.

    Anyone with a basic notion of the complicated process of getting ANY building built would be incredibly naive to pin the blame on one person.

  142. Sorry but when the architect decides to use glass tiles for a pedestrian walkway? That's on him.

    Sure you can argue who picked the specific materials chosen -- but the idea was constructionally flawed.

  143. You are most certainly responsible when you walk away with millions of dollars.

  144. So there is no accountability?

    You have described an unfortunate attitude that is prevalent in the architectural profession of late, mainly that the lead consultant--the architect--has no responsibility for problems that occur on a project simply because of the quantity of other consultants involved (see Rafael Vinoly's recent comments on his responsibility for the glare coming off his Fenchurch Tower in London that melted the dashboard of a nearby parked car for example).

    What you are essentially doing is blaming the profession, and that is a cop out. Would Calatrava be so quick to share the praise heaped on him for a successful project with the cost estimators? Apologists like yourself should not be so quick to criticize a profession that bestows upon your beloved starchitects the capacity to evade responsibility for an unsuccessful design so easily. It was Calatrava's sketch that was transformed by his office into a set of construction documents that the cost estimators and other sub-consultants struggled to understand and adhere to, it is no one else's fault but his. The fact that this has happened multiple times on projects of his around the world supports this position.

    At least when Frank Lloyd Wright told his client to move his desk out from under the leaking roof you knew you were dealing with someone who was in touch with their ego.

  145. this article has certainly hit an interesting nerve and I'm loving the comments

    I would like to see a slide show and follow ups from this architect's peers: what do they think?

    or are they like doctors, hesitant to criticize malpractice?

    It appears as if when this architect isn't working in Milwaukee, he's Joe Btfsplk, a walking disaster.

    The times might even commission R. Crumb (since Al Capp is tot) to do a comic panel on him.

    that would be wonderful

  146. What, no slide show?

  147. Sounds like a semi-competent prima donna.
    These are structures not World's Fair exhibits.

  148. In 1981, I moved to Venice, ca. I joined a group that opposed development--Venice was relatively mixed-income residents, and more or less reasonable in price. One night I was taken by the leader of this local group to the old Venice Gas Co, near the border with santa monica. Frank Gehry, in hard hat, was directing the illegal removal of old toxic waste. He was part owner/developer of this site, this before his architectural "reputation" was in the soar mode. The local pollution agency shut the site down in the middle of the night. After that, when I hear/read the name Gehry, I just cringe.

  149. “Regional officials had hoped that the complex would transform this city into a tourist destination”

    That’s interesting, since Valencia already was a major tourist destination. It is a city with over 2,000 years of history, filled with incredible architecture reaching back to Roman times, great museums, wonderful cuisine (paella originated there), and on top of that is a coastal city with a gentle climate and beautiful Mediterranean beaches. The idea that it needed Calatrava’s white elephant to be a “tourist destination” is laughable. It probably would have been cheaper, more honest as to the motives at play, and better for tourism, to simply construct a 200-foot tall heroic statute of Santiago Calatrava on the riverbed, and charge tourists 10 Euro apiece to ride to the top.

  150. In a country with travel destinations such as Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Bilbao and Santiago de Compostela, there is a lot of competition for tourism dollars. It's not as simple as you make it sound.

  151. Who hired this clown? Whatever happened to accountability...common-sense...intelligence...or independent thinking?
    Yikes!

  152. Just inform yourself on the "accountability" and "common sense" of the Valencian government,. You'll find your answer.

  153. Form should follow function......not fantasy. Over the past couple of decades we've seen countless structures built using the reverse order of logic-----more public artwork than infrastructure, designed by men more celebrated as artists than engineers.

    While a 5-year-old may also have fantastical ideas and grand visions, I also would not want to drive over his bridges or stand under his buildings.

  154. Form should follow function......not fantasy. Over the past couple of decades we've seen countless structures built using the reverse order of logic-----more public artwork than infrastructure, designed by men more celebrated as artists than engineers.

    While a 5-year-old may also have fantastical ideas and grand visions, I also would not want to drive over his bridges or stand under his buildings either.

  155. The article describes what I call, in my lexicon, "genius architect syndrome."

  156. Cost overruns are not the architects fault. Ugly is.

  157. He's also the architect who was recently removed from a project at the Denver International Airport.

  158. Why do clients keep engaging this guy?

  159. Like the restaurant that's so crowded no one goes there anymore?

  160. At least in this article, it seems that Calatrava and other fashionista architects have forgotten a famous work by Vitruvius, The Ten Books on Architecture. These were the only treatises on architecture for some 1500 years, or until Alberti reconstituted them in 1452.
    These were required reading when I studied for my Masters in Architecture some 45 years ago. The most often quoted writing of Vitruvius is his famous triad of qualities any building must possess, namely, it must have structural integrity, it must be useful and appropriate, and it must possess beauty. In other words, the building must have firmness, functional integrity and delight.

    From this article, it seems that delight has over-ruled the other equal qualities of any building. It is sad because Calatrava's work possesses "delight" beyond measure.

  161. One has to look at the political context in Valencia and the Valencian Autonomous Community, easily the most corrupt region of Spain -and that's really a high bar. This is not discussed properly in the NYT article.

    Kickbacks, anybody?

  162. We give the architecture profession more credit than it deserves. (Was it growing up watching the Brady Bunch?) My hubby has to deal with these clowns every day in his fabrication business. They lead their clients around by their noses, telling them what to like and not to like (because so many people feel they have to purchase an opinion). They concoct ridiculous, unsound designs and then refuse to listen to experts when they advise a better way to do it.

    I've learned that a truly great artist combines function with beauty, and they listen to their clients, as well as advise them. As these cities seek out the biggest blowhard just to have the bragging rights, well, they got what they paid for, right?

  163. If you want to see the architect as pure egotist to the extreme (albeit fictional), check out Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead", or try to sit through the movie version.

  164. The movie's a treasure of art deco cinematography.

  165. If you hire an architect to design big buildings disguised as sculptures where straight lines are the exception as opposed to the norm, you get opera houses that are over budget and where you might be able to hear an opera, but not see it performed, because some part of the sculpture you're sitting in is blocking your view.

    I saw this complex in Valencia a couple of years ago. It looks like a huge fantasy park. I personally don't find his work appealing, but that's "art." I'm a form meets function type, so you get both a pleasing building that serves its purpose well. I like Grand Central Station.

    Unfortunately, executing on his designs in Spain, where they have had the financial meltdown and where the contracting and materials chain is doubtlessly infused with shall we call them "additional markups" creates a situation where the people picking food from garbage bins can look up and see what is happening right in front of their eyes.

    This results in articles in the NY Times.

  166. People will always criticize especially if a building is unusual or ahead of its time. Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings were famous for their roof leaks, Falling Water almost fell in the water without serious engineering intervention. Saarinen's TWA terminal at Kennedy airport was dysfunctional as an airplane terminal and yes, the roof leaked. These things do not make the architecture any less great. Gothic cathedrals can be damp and chilly -and talk about cost overruns in their day! but the bottom line is that Calatrava has designed extraordinary public works -both buildings and bridges- that will be long regarded as the among the best works of this generation. The new PATH terminal in Manhattan is going to be spectacular and worthy of its location. In fifty or one hundred years no one is going to look back and point at some ugly little building and say "the roof never leaked, isn't that awe inspiring?"

  167. The PATH terminal is an eye of Horus. Those are eyelashes, not "spines."

  168. Actually it certainly does make the architecture less great. Even the greatest architecture is shelter, and keeping off the rain is of prime importance. Buildings that fail to shelter become other things - ruins. Ruins can be beautiful examples of architectural theory and aesthetics, but they don't fulfill all three the Vitruvian Virtues: Solid, Useful, Beautiful.

  169. All you say is true, BUT who wants to deal with inherent problems and deficiencies when buying a design one should be proud of and not dread? Plans should be scrupulously examined before approval is given. And if the project doesn't function, final payment should be withheld. That's just smart and the lawyers' first ;payment. This guy is a jack of no trades.

  170. It's not the architect's fault if the project goes over budget. It's the contractor who failed to see the problems in the drawings.

  171. In Calgary, we put in a postcard-pretty Calatrava bridge. (Literally: a later look at the files found the bridge location was fifth of five proposed as far as usefulness went, but first of five in postcard value.) Costs soared and it became a big controversy. A big part of the added cost was that the welds on the steel were bad when the pieces arrived from Spain - where Calatrava insisted they be done, by companies he has an interest in - and they had to be re-done in Canada.

    I suspect he's sold his last sculpture - a better term for his work than structure - in this part of the world.

  172. "Cities built by code officials"..."conventionalist...speaking out of envy".... "You can't house everything in Butler Buildings." There's a lot of architecture between the pompous, self-aggrandizing products of the starchitects and, at the other end, the mundane products of "service" architects.
    I think we can have really good buildings that evidence the architect's creativity and vision and, more importantly, reflect well on us, our beliefs and values.
    We shouldn't get too far from Vitruvius. Our built structures need to show durability, utility and delight (in our eyes, not only the designer's).

  173. This article reminded me of all the windows falling out of I.M. Pei's John Hancock Building when it first opened. A giant building with all its windows covered with plywood like some run down store front.

  174. Add the footbridge in Calgary to his list of cost over run fiascos.
    Was any client ever happy with this architect?

  175. It's the only distinctive bridge in Calgary.

  176. I believe Milwaukee is happy with the new Art museum wing.

  177. Form over function to the extreme.

  178. You want prima donna? Here's the hissy-fit Mr. Calatrava threw when he noticed museum staff were actually putting things like tables and displays in the lovely empty spaces of his Milwaukee Art Museum: "People cannot occupy the building like barbarians and throw things around that could ruin it... The museum has to recognize that they have a difficult building. They wanted a piece of art, and we went beyond what architects educated in a functional style of architecture would do. We gave them an abstract building - a building like a sculpture. And you cannot hang your jacket on the sculpture's torso." (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 5-25-2001)

    And here I thought the building was supposed to be a place for the public to actually use. Silly me, it's a sculpture! Maybe that explains the surprise steps and drops that people kept falling on, too.

  179. And the Quadracci Pavillion of the Milwaukee Art Museum is gorgeous, worth the 2 hour drive to Milwaukee every time I get a visitor new to the area. The actual museum collection is not worth the time. With several architects in the family, each visit took at least half a day, taking pictures of even the garage. If you had the "Windhover Hall" (the space under the wings) full of displays, it would ruin it.

  180. Why do you think Frank Lloyd Wright's houses had so much built-in furniture? It was so the clients couldn't move it.

  181. A museum that would be "ruined" by installing displays? No further questions, your honor.

  182. My brother, who is an engineer once told me: "Architects provide the art, engineers the science", that refering to construction. Where were the engineers in all of this? Some architectural projects should never progress from the conceptual stage to the building stage because they are only works of art that will never serve any practical purpose.

  183. A point of correction, before we get into an uncivil debate about architecture vs. engineering. Besides formal study as an architect, Calatrava did graduate work in civil engineering. To quote the citation from Wikipedia, he..... " enrolled at "Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, Switzerland, for graduate work in civil engineering. In 1981, after completing his doctoral thesis, "On the Foldability of Space Frames"," He should know a bit better.

  184. Funny you said this because Calatrava is widely regarded as an engineer first and architect second. The problem is not there is no engineer involved, the problem is that the architect/engineer does not have the client's interest at heart and that the clients did not do their parts to make sure they get what they want/ can afford.

  185. Architecture has been described as an "applied art'. Mr. Calatrava has apparently forgotten the "applied" part. It is an architect's basic responsibility to make their buildings functional as well as beautiful. Gaudi's buildings do both. Mr. Calatrava's efforts do not.
    Judging from the extent of his problematical high visibility projects, Santiago Calatrava, is a much better salesman than he is an architect.

  186. Absent from the article and comments thereto is a discussion of the effect of computer generated design. Isn't this that has resulted in all of this curvaceous design madness, most of which has minimal functional justification at best? Since it takes little personal intellectual effort to create these designs, isn't Calatrava's method the lazy man's way out? When a building's design calls for custom design and construction of every item because of its uniqueness, isn't it inevitable that that there will be cost overruns?

  187. It's not lazy design at all. Quite the contrary, Calatrava is a trained Civil Engineer in addition to being an Architect, who started his work before the widespread use of CAD programs. Many of his projects, especially the bridges, are a direct expression of the structural forces and are actually not gratuitous or generated randomly on the computer.

  188. Wow, the curse of architects..ego. Designing for themselves literally at the expense of others..

    Interesting that Gehry's Bilbao came in under budget- no problem there and in fact he has never had that reputation.. Okay let's put the blame where it should lie.. These "artists" need to be checked throughout the project by astute project client rep who watch every move they make.. Where in the world was this person and what of the initial contract? it should have covered the client on these costs. It should always write that all add-ons have to be approved by the client but if they are gross errors, Calatrava does not deserve to be paid. Period.

  189. What Gehry has and may be lacking in Calatrava's instance is a very solid, disciplined and dedicated "back room" of Architects and Engineers who wake up each morning to solve problems they have never faced before. It takes organization, disciplined attention to detail and a willingness to ask questions and seek advice.

  190. Calatrava’s history of costs overruns is very well known – yet he has a miraculous ability to get clients to increase their construction budgets as well as keep paying him. One has to conclude that market forces are at work here – clients want what Calatrava is selling.

    The world is full of tried and true designs and construction methods. When someone hires Calatrava it’s because they don’t want that. Innovation, be it in design of forms or construction methods and materials, is to some degree an experiment. Architecture is a strange business in that the innovators are using other people’s money and people have to live in the experiment when it’s done. When you have the proposition of: “Give me an awe-inspiring building I have never seen before, on time, on budget and technically flawless.” one can see the inherent tension in that. If you’re going to experiment, sometimes you are going to fail. To paraphrase Frank Lloyd Wright’s apocryphal quip, “Doctors can bury their mistakes. Architects can only plant vines on theirs.”

  191. Exactly right. Why not make your next opera house a cinder block shed with a tin roof, just like Walmart? It will be on time and under budget and the roof won't leak.

    Ask the people of Sydney whether the opera house was worth the effort. At the time the red meat crowd complained endlessly about the problems, but now its an icon which defines an the city.

  192. Good grief!

    Calatrava = derivative eyesores ripped from the pages of Buck Rogers comic books.

    Worse than Gehry which is saying something.

    Last decent looking building in the West was built before World War One. What's wrong with windows that open and cornices?

    Modernity = triumph of war ethos over everything, dominion by machines and occupancy of space by violence.

  193. Sounds fishy the complaint about Calatrava not knowing he was building in a riverbed. Would not that issue be with the city who asked him to build a complex in a riverbed? And regarding the stairs/elevators, that too is something city planners should review and sign off on before cutting the first check.

  194. I am not certain how construction oversight works there but in some municipalities the architect is the planning review and inspection department. Their license to practice is the guarantee of compliance.

  195. There was a huge flood in Valencia in 1957. After that, as a flood prevention measure the city built an artificial riverbed in the outskirts of town and the river was diverted there. In the 1970's the old riverbed was transformed into a 10 km. long park with plenty of trees, bike paths and soccer fields. This park is one of the most beloved (and used) public spaces in Valencia.

    Regarding the city planners ... well, Valencia has been a shining beacon of institutional corruption for almost 20 years. The city planners fulfilled their expected role.

  196. Most buildings that break with the status quo will have problems, it takes time to iron these things out. Buildings require maintenance, that is just a fact. Even simple brownstones will leak for any number of reasons.

    Works of Architecture is not product design, it does not benefit from a controlled manufacturing process. They are usually a singular design built on a unique site by people who have never worked together before. The fact that it has a few leaks, that can be repaired, is a truly miraculous achievement by everyone involved.

  197. I must say that the City of Arts is quite spectacular but after seeing what Mr Calatrava got i have to say that "calatrava te clava" is quite clear, you cannot create an architectural marvel without thinking about the users, the maintenance and all the other issues related to this work, I am astonished that after just six years some parts of the structure are failing, this could be the result of ill maintenance or simply the choice of materials and the workmanship of those who work on it, but one thing is for sure 94 million euros is a huge sum of money and the least we can expect from the designer/administrator/builder is that they answer the questions and solve the issues around his designs.

  198. This article is built on the straw man "star architect" cliche, the sculptural designer who has no idea about engineer. But what you don't mention is that Calatrava was an engineer first, all of his forms come from ideas related to structure.
    What this article tallys is a serious of leaks, facade problems and tweaks that are common in all buildings. The fact that Calatrava goes above and beyond may lead to a few more problems. I doubt he is as dismissive as the rumors this article says--where is the reporting on that?
    Anyway, what you need to do is do a wider research into whether people actually enjoy the building, not just play gotcha journalism by highlighting leaks.

  199. An Opera House with 150 obstructed view seats? THAT says it all. And as for his designs - looks like he is inspired by the 1968 "Planet of the Apes". So why do they keep hiring him?

  200. And the worst part is: for what? Why spend all this money for an unprofessional architect? Not only is he an incompetent engineer, he is not an architect. His designs are extremely, cheesy.

  201. as an architect, I think I'm qualified to say that our role is to combine function, practicality, cost and beauty into one and pretty much in that order. Granted we see architecture as mother of all art form, but all too often star architects (I worked for several Pritzker winners) that can take the lead in guiding clients to reasonable and beautiful architecture don't. I think it's no different from uneducated clients that are star-strucked by the ramd of star architect or the modern day desire to fall for trend and that 15 mins. of fame society seems so hungry for lately. Good architecture should provide lasting healthy environment for all, and not just cater to one sector of celebrity struck society, no matter what scale of project or how ideal a project it may be for us, the architects.

  202. RE: Ponte della Costituzione, why would anyone build such a monstrosity in VENICE?

    Are the Venetians INSANE?

  203. I'm shocked! Shocked! to read about these problems.

    "I'm not really interested in architecture--I only want to do sculpture" Frank Gehry said to me when, as a young architecture grad working in his office, I was enlisted to drive him to the local Mercedes dealer to pick up his car. That any of Mr Gehry's buildings function at all is due to the heroic efforts of a team of supporters who strive--sometimes in vain--to make the sculptures work not simply as objects but as buildings as well.

  204. Calatrava is really a sculptor masquerading as an architect, and that very fundamental distinction leads to so many misconceptions about his responsibilities and his capabilities. Even though he is also trained as an engineer, he never takes it further than the structural engineering involved in large sculptural objects, not to the more complex level of architecture. He decided to ignore the complexities of architecture very early in his career so as to concentrate on sculptural objects. He has relied on other agents to attempt to transform his sculptures into buildings - the results are some of the great follies of our age. Some are inspiring metaphors for creatures of the natural world that we as humans admire - birds, dinosaurs, etc. Some are less than inspiring - inchoate jumbles of confusing shapes and contorted surfaces. None are conceived as architecture or even challenge architectural conventions. He and his work have solipsistically turned away from the discipline in an attempt to play in an idealized world of aesthetic certainty. Many of the organizations that commission his work are either not aware of this, or are deliberately ignoring this in hopes of achieving some economic miracle. He is a Madoff, as professor Malo contends in an earlier comment here, but so are many of his clients.