How Can A World Famous Architect Cause So Many Disasters?

The concert hall of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. De...
Calatrava is world-famous and probably Spain's most important architect, with a fantastic entry on Wikipedia, that also defines him as a "sculptor and structural engineer". Yet, he's made so many blunders that the New York Times recently published an article called  "A Star Architect Leaves Some Clients Fuming", recapping an incredibly long list of disasters,  you can read it here.

Clients are fuming and that's not too surprising: not only are his cost overruns in the tens of millions of dollars, but the structures he builds are often not functional.

One example among many perfectly illustrates the problem: the footbridge with a pavement of glass bricks lit from underneath. A fantastic idea, you don't even need lamp posts to light it up at night. Brilliant, a work of art! Alas, it is so slippery when it rains, because of its nice curved shape, that people break their neck if they attempt to use it!

Here it is, a bridge crossing over Venice's grand canal:


Planned in 1996, it suffered delays and spiraling costs and the City of Venice refused to inaugurate it with a ceremony when it was finally finished in September 2008 (see the Telegraph's article here) It even lacked access for the disabled.

Calatrava was very sorry there was no opening ceremony; he is very proud of it - he says he's built 40 bridges in 17 countries, and this one is his best.

Ah, it is certainly striking, especially at night, see here:


So in our day and age, does this mean Beauty trumps Usefulness? Or is it a lack of professionalism and we always fall for those who make a lot of smoke but there's no fire?

What do you think?

(Photo credit: Wikipedia, the concert hall of Santa Cruz de Tenerife; for the footbridge image, see http://travelfollownews.blogspot.it/2008_09_01_archive.html)
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