The World Just Doesn't Get Trophy Architect Santiago Calatrava, but Dallas Does
Santiago Calatrava. Did it ever occur to you to take him home to meet your mom? He's not supposed to be your wife. Be fair about this.
This is a unique call to action for Dallas. We are in a position to defend the famous Spanish architect from terribly unfair and hypocritical global attack. The New York Times has a piece this morning cataloging two- and threefold cost overruns and structural snafus all over the world so absurd they seem like Kurt Vonnegut jokes, all blamed on Calatrava just because he designed them.
But here in Dallas, a city that has embraced Calatrava with abandon over the last decade, we know better than to blame him just because his roofs leak, his bridges break hips and he forgot to add a building for people in one of his airport designs. We get Calatrava. We can see the world's hypocrisy.
It's like, "Sure, you were so hot-looking on my arm at the bar last night that two of my most jealous friends went out to the parking lot and shot themselves, and you were so kinky in bed that now I need a refresher course in biology, and you were so hot again this morning that I had to fake an asthma attack. But where the hell is my breakfast, slut?"
In Bilbao, Spain, they call one of his structures "The Bridge of Broken Legs," because he designed it with slippery glass bricks in a place with lots of rain and snow. In Oviedo, Spain, one of his cocktail napkin designs was so structurally impractical that the building collapsed while they were putting it up. A smooth-skinned Spanish opera house started wrinkling up like a gnarly gourd within six years of completion.
Dallas Observer It was always about the look, anyway.
Again in Bilbao, he forgot to add space for passengers in his design for an airport terminal: Everything else -- security, customs, the gates -- was housed very smartly in a building designed to look like a dove taking flight. But, yeah, after you got through customs you had to go stand outside. Later, officials added some kind of tacked-on shelter for human beings.
Oh, the humans! It's always something, isn't it?
Buried pretty far down in the Times piece is a reference to our own city, which Calatrava himself apparently has cited in the past as proof that somebody loves him:
In a brief interview in Architectural Record magazine last year, he noted that clients were satisfied enough to come back for more. Among them are the cities of Dublin and Dallas. In that article, Mr. Calatrava called the uproar over his work in Valencia "a political maneuver by the Communists."
Communists! Oh, I have to stand outside! Oh, I might get snow on my nose! Oh, I demand that Uncle Government come and build a roof for me! So typical of people who attack Calatrava.
We know better. Here in Dallas we are paying hundreds of millions of dollars -- possibly a billion by the time it's said and done -- for make-believe suspension bridges over a wide ditch on a flat plain. One of them alone, a Hollywood false-front to mask a plain-Jane concrete highway bridge, has already jumped in cost from $74 million to $102 million before a single fake brick has been laid.
And that's fine with us. In maybe the most memorable quote of her tenure, former Mayor Laura Miller, who signed off on three decorative Calatrava suspension bridges to span the Trinity River in downtown Dallas, called them "eye candy." And, hey, fact of life here? Everybody knows eye candy costs more than fidelity.
You don't ring up Santiago Calatrava, ask him to meet you at the show-off bar, remind him to wear something revealing and then start asking him stuff like, "Are you sure you were born with that?"
Who gives a damn what he was born with? Who cares if you can actually walk on his floors or stand under his roofs? No, it's not a real suspension bridge, Sherlock. If you want to hook up with a real suspension bridge, go to your high school reunion.
Calatrava's stuff is supposed to be hot-looking, not real. That's what you pay the big bucks for. Oh, the roof is leaking on me. Oh, I fell down on the glass floor and broke my hip. Honestly? It makes you wonder what's happening to people's values.
They should all come here and look at our next fake suspension bridge when we get it up, the false-front one. Looking at that big fake sucker sticking straight up in the sky might actually help other people understand the true value of Calatrava's work. And, fine, if it stays up for more than four hours we'll call a doctor.