Its one thing to build beautiful iconic landmark arts centres but something else to keep them open. Spanish cities, in particular, have used architecture as a symbol of urban ambition. Expo ’92 Seville featured 100 architectural pavilions; the reconstruction of Barcelona for the 1992 Olympics resulted in the Santiago Calatrava designed Montjuic Telecommunications Tower; the Montjuic Stadium by Vittorio Gregotti and the International Trade Centre by I M Pei; and the City of Arts and Sciences, by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela opened in Valencia in 1998.
But are the architectural icons, including concert halls, galleries and museums as well as airports, conference centres and a range of public buildings ‘flawed monuments’? An article by Giles Tremlett in The Guardian notes that ‘financial irregularities’ are being suggested as a cause of the problem as the £37.7 million arts building, Centro Niemayer, in Avilés, Spain, designed by Oscar Niemeyer, is temporarily closed. The boom years of public investment in culture are over and ‘expensive’ arts projects are at risk to the budget-balancing and the nerve-ends of politicians, even if the cultural monuments can show tangible returns for increased tourism and economic investment.
There are reservations about the viability of the ambitious £257 million project for the City of Culture of Galicia, a six-building culture campus on a 173 acre site by Peter Eisenman at Santiago de Compostela. Twelve years in construction, the first two buildings opened in 2011. The complete complex includes:
- Museum of Galician History
- New Technologies Centre
- Music Theatre
- Galician Library
- Periodicals Archive
- Central Services building
Images: Eisenman. (c) Paisajes Españoles, via Fundación Cidade da Cultura de Galicia.
Spain can’t afford the other Guggenheim. by Giles Tremlett. The Guardian 4 October 2011