Monday, 16 April 2012

Spanish disarray and the role of the architect

Anybody with an ounce of sense would not consider moving to Spain just now, with the economy in disarray and 25 per cent unemployment. Who is to blame? This question could spark a lengthy debate, particularly about the pros and cons of the Euro. But, according to an article in The Guardian on Friday, architects, or at least architecture, are partly to blame. It castigates the extravagance of regional governments saying 'Regional politicians are behind some of Spain's biggest and most costly white elephants. From Valencia's huge, spaceship-like City of the Arts and Sciences to Santiago de Compostela's vast, half-empty City of Culture, loss-making monuments to their vanity abound.
'A race to construct flashy public buildings by cutting-edge architects, combined with a taste for under-used infrastructure projects, has helped push up debt and deficit. '
In Valencia at least, the array of buildings alongside the dry bed of the Rio Turia, including Calatrava's City of Arts and Sciences, (which by the way was completed ten years ago) have helped revitalise the city and reconnect it to the sea. What should architects do? Say no to some of the most exciting work they are offered.
If well designed, these buildings may still be standing when the memory of the current economic crisis has faded. And an interest in good architecture also nurtures talent. A high proportion of the winners and commendations in last year's ar+d Emerging Architecture awards (sorry, this is behind a subscription barrier) came from Spain. One cannot expect such a happy outcome in the years to come.

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