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Calatrava defends £81 million fees for Valencia work

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Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava defended his fees for his work in Valencia

The cost of Calatrava’s €1.2billion City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia - described as a ‘white elephant that the country could not afford’ - and his fees, an impressive 12.5 percent of the total cost of the project, have caused controversy in Spain and provoked the anger of politicians.

Speaking in an interview with Razia Iqbal as part of BBC World Service’s Dream Builders series at the RIBA last night (29 January) Calatrava hit back saying: ‘The project took 20 years to complete. It was started by invited competition. There was a lot of expectation of the project. It was supposed to be a motor for regeneration and for sure, it has regenerated the area.

He added: ‘The consequence is a series of buildings, some of which have been standing for nearly 15 years now, which have provided regeneration through cultural interventions.’

‘The project cost €1.2billion over [two decades]. This is a small investment. It was a political project which spanned over five different governments and no-one questioned the project.’

The defence is unlikely to appease the authors of a website dedicatred to the project and Calatrava which has criticised the architect personally for the project’s overspend. The website, www.calatravatelaclava.com, translates roughly as ‘Calatrava rips you off.’

Originally budgeted to cost €300 million, its price tag more than tripled according to estimates by opposition members of the regional parliament.

When asked whether architects should be less ambitious with thier vision when costs become too much Calatrava replied: ‘Authorities are very cost conscious you have to work within this. You have to produce a lot just to bring about a possible solution using simple materials.’

Calatrava on Calatrava

On the design process

‘The execution is what I enjoy most. Seeing a building built on site. But the majority of my work is at the start. I sketch by hand – hopefully it keeps things spontaneous.’

On practical completion

‘The thrill of getting a building finished – It is like a miracle. You see the perspectives and the light emerge. The building can talk to you.’

On inspiration cities

‘Rome. For a musician it would have to be Vienna, but for an architect the most inspirational city is Rome. Every stone speaks to you.’

On art and architecture

‘Sculpture is an intimate way of expressing yourself. The perception of architecture being different to other arts has been important to my career. Architecture is nourished by art.’

On bridges

‘The art of the 21st century would be worse off if it wasn’t for the Golden Gate and the Forth Bridge’.

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