Antoni Gaudí’s Basilica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia (Basílica and Expiatory Church of The Holy Family) is one of Spain’s most visited tourist destinations, even though it’s been a construction site for over 130 years. It and his other modernista buildings like the Casa Botlló in Barcelona are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Similarly, native architect Santiago Calatrava’s Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences) in the Río Turia is Valencia’s calling card.
Interestingly, Calatrava considers Gaudí a major influence on his design style, which–like that of Gaudí–attempts to bring elements of nature into architecture. Gaudí was ahead of his time in merging the fields of architecture and engineering to create fantastic buildings that blur the line between art and function. Both architects are known for their innovative styles that have fostered new architectural movements. As impressive and unique as their work may be, these Spanish architects share a problem: their projects tend to have issues with finances.
The Sagrada Familia had cost issues from the start way back in 1882, and Gaudí was recruiting financial supporters until his death in 1926, when only a quarter of the building was complete. The Basilica has always relied on private funding, as the Spanish government will not help fund construction projects of religious buildings. Now, the ticket sales to enter the Basilica are supporting the continued construction, which was majorly set back by the Spanish Civil War, when many of Gaudí’s plans and models were destroyed by Catalan anarchists. The Sagrada Familia will hopefully be completed by 2026, the 100 year anniversary of Gaudí’s death by traffic accident in Barcelona. However, barcelonés have some problems with the Basilica. Many believe the new plans do not follow Gaudí’s original intent, and others don’t like the work of sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs on the Passion Façade completed in 1987.
The Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias is a sore subject for valencianos who are still upset about the public project´s financial mismanagement and cost overruns. Construction started in 1996 with an original price of $300 million. When the complex was finished in 2005 the total cost was more than $1.1 billion dollars, much of which came out of taxpayer´s pockets.
I may be the odd one out, but when I came to Valencia, Santiago Calatrava was not a new name to me. The Milwaukee Art Museum’s Quadracci Pavilion is nicknamed for him. Completed in 2001, also with significant budget overruns, “The Calatrava” put Milwaukee on the map architecturally. The structure won multiple awards and received international acclaim for its wing-like brise soleil (French: “sun breaker”), and was Calatrava’s first project in the United States. The success of the Quadracci Pavilion and his other works also helped Calatrava secure his commission of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub at Ground Zero in New York City which opened this year.
Gaudí and Calatrava are masters in their field; have rightly earned global acclaim for their unique works which spectacularly merge engineering, architecture, art and function; and have paved the way for other architects to continue to push the envelope of design. The associated financial issues may just be the price for innovative architecture.
The world awaits…discover it.