Repairs have begun on Santiago Calatrava's opera house in Valencia, Spain to smooth out the wrinkles on its white exterior. (Photo by Samuel Aranda for The New York Times.)
If it makes you feel any better, we are not alone.
Valencia, Spain's third-largest city, has been hard hit by the recent worldwide economic downturn. Like Flint, it has an unemployment rate pushing 30 percent. And like the controversial "floating house" in the Vehicle City, it has a high-profile design project in the heart of the city that is unexpectedly wrinkly.
Granted, Valencia's troubles are on a much grander scale. The City of Arts and Sciences is a new multi-building cultural complex in Valencia that includes "a performance hall, an opera house, a science museum, a covered walkway and acres of reflecting pools," according to a recent article in The New York Times. It is the work of architect Santiago Calatrava, who is known for his stunning vision and, lately, his cost-overruns and design flaws. The City of Arts and Sciences was originally priced at $405 million. The pricetag is now inching toward $1 billion.
Modest by comparison, Flint's controversial "floating house" resides in a downtown parking lot and is the winning design in the international Flat Lot Competition sponsored by the Flint Public Art Project. The house — designed by a London- and Madrid-based firm called Two Islands — has been criticized by some residents for its $40,000 pricetag and its wrinkled Mylar exterior. Calatrava's work has drawn similar criticism. Suzanne Daley of The New York Times reports:
Here in Valencia, the regional government’s spending spree and Mr. Calatrava’s work are being dissected and disparaged regularly as local politicians fight over who is responsible for the project’s pile of debt. Regional officials had hoped that the complex would transform this city into a tourist destination, in much the way that Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao put that city on the map, and they continue to defend the investment. But they appeared to draw a line last year when the smooth skin of Mr. Calatrava’s opera house — some call it the Darth Vader helmet — began noticeably wrinkling just six years after the building opened.At least critics of the floating house can take solace in knowing that it has sparked a vigorous debate over the impact of public art in civic life and fostered intense discussions about the esoteric nature of beauty in a city normally consumed with tackling blight and abandonment. It was privately funded. And unlike Flint's seemingly intractable economic problems, the floating house is a temporary structure. It will soon disappear, wrinkles and all.
Flint's wrinkled public art project has drawn complaints from some locals.