Openings Spain

Eight years late and millions over budget

Santiago de Compostela’s City of Culture branded an “expensive mistake”

Galician politicians are in no rush to complete the sprawling complex

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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23 Mar 11
17:6 CET


Interesting how the only positive comments are from foreigners, who respond to photos,not the actuality. Todays architecture is all about looking good in books,not livability. Those who live there and have to pay for it hate it. That is all that matters. Life, not effette desires and egoenhancing monstrosities.

23 Mar 11
13:43 CET


The place and buildings are awesome, but here the people are very upset. Only the tourist go there, the local residents (like me) are f*cking bored of wathching the unfinished building... Watch this documentary and see the desolation:

23 Mar 11
13:42 CET


Hi, I am a galician young man. I know the project and I agree with Mr Wang: It was a big mistake! It devored a lot of money which could be very usefull for R&D, Colleges and other productive investments. Nowdays, it's nearlly empty and there are many buildings, despite their official name, without an actual use decided. Do we need neo-phraonic caves? Maybe, in 50 years, we will look at it as great architecture pole and as a good attraction for tourists, but Santiago already have a remarcable Cathedral and it's a peregrination point. I fear in 2061 we will consider it a big hole that ate many chances of progress for this country. I hope to be wrong. Althouhg this criticism, I stronglly recommend the visit to this wild, green and lovely country. Enjoy our foods and taste our great wines. Thanks to all.

23 Mar 11
13:41 CET


The money for this proyect comes from a toll highway that croses the region covering most of the population. The concesion of the toll expired just before (something like 20 years long) the construction of what is named "former gobernor´s piramid" (who was minister with Franco, aged 80 years by then). This man gave to Citi bank another 20 years of toll raising. In exchange of the money for the money for the initial cost estimation. This highway cost 13€ for doing the 160km between La Coruña and Vigo, the two biggest cities, you need 1.5h to do it in highway and at least 4 hours by normal road. This toll is crippling for the regional economy (¡Goverment may even build a free toll-highway paralel to the toll one!). Also apart from a generic "city of culture" there was no specific use for the building and was after they started to build it when they tried to find some use for it, just to see that they had to redo half of the proyect. This building is a shame for all the country.

23 Mar 11
13:41 CET


Another example of corruption in Spain

23 Mar 11
13:40 CET


I'm spanish, and I tell you this building is made to make money for the politicians.

18 Mar 11
13:46 CET


Extraordinary looking building. Creative daring remains long after the money is forgotten about. Style always costs more-there is too much that is mediocre.

18 Mar 11
2:55 CET


I think I would love it - I MUST go - even if I have to walk!

17 Mar 11
21:43 CET


Looks beautiful. I'll certainly go there when traveling.

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