Calatrava Wins Round in Battle Over Valencia Project

City of Arts and Science, Valencia

City of Arts and Science, Valencia

Controversial Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava has won a court decision against a Web site critical of his work on the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, one of the most iconic projects completed in Spain in the last decade.

A judge ordered the political party backing a site called Calatravatelaclava to pay the architect €30,000 in damages and to shut down within 20 days. The site’s name has been roughly translated as “Calatrava bleeds you dry”.

Calatrava had asked for €600,000 in damages against the Web site.

The ruling is “20 times less than what Calatrava was asking for,” Ignacio Blanco of the Esquerra Unida party told the Guardian. He said the party would likely appeal the decision.

Calatrava’s attorney issued a statement praising the judge for concluding “that slander and defamation cannot go unpunished by the Spanish legal system”.

Auditorio de Tenerife, Canary Islands

Auditorio de Tenerife, Canary Islands

Calatrava is one of Spain’s best known and most controversial architects. His stunning designs have helped create a modern identity and brought a distinct, genre-bursting style to projects ranging from bridges to twisting residential towers. But cost over-runs and the price of building his elaborate structures have drawn criticism, especially at a time when government officials are preaching austerity and cutbacks. His typically audacious design for a transportation hub at the site of the World Trade Center, topped with a glass structure resembling a soaring bird, has been cut back and reworked, contributing to years of delays and a skyrocketing budget.

Calatrava is also receiving media attention for lawsuits over a leaky wine cellar project in the Álava province of northern Spain and cost overruns for a footbridge project across the Grand Canal in Venice. In Oveido, Spain, he’s been involved in a pro-longed legal conflict with the developer of a mixed-use project. (In many cases, Calatrava argues the problems are with the construction, not the design.)

To critics, the Valencia project has become a symbol of all that went wrong in the free-spending boom years in the Spanish property market. The budget for the project reportedly soared to more than €1 billion, three times original estimates, and many sections of the ceramic “skin” are already in need of expensive repairs.

The judge ruled the information on the site represented “freedom of expression and information,” but the name was “insulting and degrading.” The name suggested Calatrava “does not act with the necessary professionalism and honour, but rather schemes, betrays and deceives,” the judge ruled.

But Calatrava’s victory was short lived. A few days after the ruling the site was re-launched with a new name, “Calatrava No Nos Calla,” which translates as “Calatrava won’t silence us.”

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