Postcard from... Oviedo


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The Independent Online

Celebrated Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava is widely praised for his spectacularly designed bridges, railway stations and other structures of all types, from the roof of the Olympic stadium in Athens to sets for the New York City ballet. But much closer to home, in Oviedo, problems with one of his most striking constructions, a conference hall, will leave Mr Calatrava out of pocket by more than three million euros.

According to local newspaper La Nueva España, in a court ruling this week, Mr Calatrava was told to pay that sum to the hall’s owners, the company Jovellanos XXI, who had footed the bill when part of the building collapsed in 2006. The company had also grown tired of paying for seemingly irreparable technical problems in a huge mechanical visor.

Bizarrely, the court case was initiated by Mr Calatrava himself in a bid to reclaim more than seven million euros owed to him by the hall’s owners, which the court ruled that Mr Calatrava was indeed due to be paid. But it was a Pyrrhic financial victory, given that the court simultaneously decided the architect should also pay the owners 10.55 million euros compensation.

This is not the first court case this year involving Mr Calatrava’s buildings in Spain: in April, he faced legal demands to contribute to a winery owner’s repeated attempts to stop his main building’s undulating roof – designed by Mr Calatrava – from leaking. However, the vast majority of buildings designed by the Valencian architect remain free from any controversy.