Eight years late and millions over budget
Santiago de Compostela’s City of Culture branded an “expensive mistake”
By Gareth Harris and Roberta Bosco. Museums, Issue 222, March 2011
Published online: 16 March 2011
SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA. A member of the competition jury that in 1999 selected the US architect Peter Eisenman to design a monumental cultural complex in Santiago de Compostela, northwest Spain, has called the decision “an expensive mistake. Probably one of the largest in the history of architecture.” The sprawling City of Culture, which includes a planned international art centre and a museum among its six buildings, is €292m over budget and eight years late, according to our sister paper Il Giornale dell’Arte.
Wilfried Wang, the professor in architecture at the University of Texas, in Austin, said: “I was the sole voice on the competition jury voting against the Eisenman design. Any other competition design is also likely to have gone over budget, but it would have been completed by now.”
The 150,000 sq. m cultural complex, which is built into the side of Mount Gaiás, was originally due to be completed in 2002 at an estimated cost of €108m. The budget then increased to €400m, with the Galician regional government the sole funder. “If Eisenman’s scheme were ever to be completed, it would probably cost some €1.2bn,” said Wang. “Had my colleagues been as honest as I was, and as critical, we could have saved the Galician and Spanish taxpayers some €800m.” But another member of the jury, Kurt Forster, said the plan was grand and farsighted.
Two buildings housing a library and an archive opened last month while the museum devoted to the history of the Galician region is due to be completed by the end of the year. The Galician government, however, has decided to halt work on the Centre for Music and Performing Arts for three years, owing to the current economic crisis.
A spokeswoman for the Foundation for the City of Culture of Galicia said: “A revised schedule for the international art centre will be announced shortly.” She denied that the project was over budget, on the grounds that the budget agreed when the six buildings were put out to tender was €373m with €41m set aside for planning works, making a total of €414m. “€236m has so far been spent on the project with €115m tied up in contracted works. So the budget is still within estimate.”
The official completion date for the City of Culture was 2012, she added. “[The project] will progress in line with the economic situation. The finishing date depends on the government budget. In any case, the City of Culture is conceived as a work in progress.” Eisenman declined to comment.
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