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Calatrava's fees were boosted by PP

Valencia contracts signed by Socialists were later modified to benefit architect Calatrava received 94 million euros for City of Arts and Sciences

Deputy Ignacio Blanco has denounced the high cost of Valencia's City of Arts and Sciences.
Deputy Ignacio Blanco has denounced the high cost of Valencia's City of Arts and Sciences.C. FRANCESC (EL PAÍS)

More evidence has emerged regarding the exorbitant amounts paid by the Popular Party (PP) regional government in Valencia to architect Santiago Calatrava for his commission to build the city's famed City of Arts and Sciences complex in the early 1990s, according to documents presented by an opposition party.

Under regional premier Eduardo Zaplana, the Valencia government not only linked the architect's fee entirely to the cost of the project, but also modified contracts that had been signed between Calatrava and the former leader of the region, Socialist Joan Lerma. The changes saw the percentage of total costs he was due rise to 12 percent, when originally he was due to receive 3.5 percent of total costs and 4.5 percent of the management of the project.

The project was first approved by the regional government in 1991 but construction didn't begin until late 1994. The City of Arts and Sciences was inaugurated on April 16, 1998. The Valencia government ended up spending 1.282 billion euros on the entire project.

Last week, Ignacio Blanco, a deputy with the Valencia United Left coalition (EUPV), denounced that the renowned architect collected more than he should have from the regional government, calling the project "a waste" of public money.

Calatrava, who reportedly received 94 million euros for the project, defended his fees in a statement issued on Sunday, saying that some lawmakers were taking advantage of the current financial crisis in Valencia to bring up the issue. He said that he had never been questioned about his earnings in the past.

Among the contracts that were modified after they were signed, according to Blanco's documents, was the construction of the 17,500-square-meter Umbracle and the Palau de les Arts, which was the most expensive part of the entire project, costing 478.5 million euros.

Another contract, for the construction of the Pont de l'Assut de l'Or, was signed after the project was completed, according to Blanco.

"All of this is unacceptable and presumably illegal," the lawmaker said. "This shows that there was favoritism and irresponsibility on behalf of the [then-] government."

Blanco's complaints have caused a stir among Valencians, who view the City of Arts and Sciences as their crowning architectural treasure. A website set up on Monday by the EUPV, with all the details of the contracts, received more than 47,000 hits in just one day, while the Twitter hashtag #calatravatelaclava (Calatrava will rip you off) became a global trending topic.

The United Left deputy has in his posession a contract signed in 1991 by Santiago Calatrava detailing the original plans for the City of Sciences, as it was known then. He also has its modification, signed in September 1996, which establishes the need to include a parking lot in the plan - which would eventually become the Umbracle esplanade and exhibition zone - as well as the fees for Calatrava, amounting to 7.5 percent of the total cost of this part of the project, plus 4.5 percent in fees for supervising its construction.

A similar modification was applied to another contract, signed in December 1992 by Calatrava and Antoni Birlanga, the then-economic commissioner and president of the public corporation, Valencia Science and Communications SA (Vacico), for a communications tower. In 1996, the contract was changed to scrap the tower and, in its place, construct the Palau de les Arts. It was at this point that the project's name was changed, from the City of Sciences to the City of Arts and Sciences. The percentage of the architect's fees was also set in this amendment, amounting to 12 percent of the final cost.

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