Calatrava loses legal fight over Bilbao work of art

28th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

28 November 2007, Bilbao - The city council of Bilbao modified a "singular work of art" without even consulting its creator - but the latter's claim to intellectual property gives way to the higher public interest.

28 November 2007

Bilbao - The city council of Bilbao modified a "singular work of art" without even consulting its creator - but the latter's claim to intellectual property gives way to the higher public interest.

With this argument, Judge Edmundo Rodríguez Achútegui of Section 1 of the Mercantile Court of Bilbao has dismissed a suit filed by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava against the city council of Bilbao and two construction firms.

Calatrava brought the action after a walkway extension was added to his well-known bridge over the River Ria, nicknamed the Zubi Zuri. After just a month of deliberation, the judge ruled on Spain's first lawsuit for the violation of the integrity of a work of engineering, which saw Japanese architect Arata Isozaki in direct conflict with Calatrava.

Pending the result of an appeal (which Calatrava's counsel promptly announced after the ruling), there will be no demolition of Isozaki's recently opened pedestrian walkway, which connects with Calatrava's bridge, nor payment of the €3 million indemnity demanded by the architect, who received a total of 500,000 Swiss francs (some €
320,000 at present rates) for the Zubi Zuri. The ruling does, at least, censure the municipality for not having made "the least effort" to employ Calatrava for the walkway extension, or to obtain his authorization, deeming the behavior as "incomprehensible."

The judge has also accepted Calatrava's contention that the work has been modified. "There has been an appreciable alteration of the work," he says, "which changes its unmistakable personality," adding that "it has ceased to be a self-contained work." The sentence also notes that the walkway is protected by the Intellectual Property Law, and that the ruling would have been favorable to Calatrava had only private interests been involved.

The judge concludes that, given that the walkway is essential for fluid pedestrian movement, the public interest must prevail over the private - a point that was much repeated in the trial by the lawyers for the city council and the two construction firms. "The alteration has occurred; but the right to the integrity of the work is not violated, the author being obliged to bear it in the interest of the public served by the bridge," says the ruling.

The sentence dismisses the claim that a number of accidents involving pedestrians slipping on the bridge, or the expenditure of €200,000 on new paving slabs, lie behind the litigation.

Calatrava's studio opines that the judge, in spite of his dismissal of the architect's claim, has given him "moral satisfaction," admitting that the bridge is an artistic work, that Isozaki's walkway "alters its unity," and that the city council did not ask Calatrava's permission.

One of the construction firms, Vizcaína de Edificaciones, noted the ruling's recognition that the bridge was treated with "maximum respect." The mayor's office had no comment, but the town-planning councilor, Julia Madrazo, noted that it shows that "works of architecture are compatible with the public interest."

Calatrava has also courted controversy for his work in the Balearic Islands. The architect received €1.2 million from the previous government of the Balearic Islands, headed by Jaume Matas of the conservative Popular Party (PP), for the "preparation and presentation of a preliminary plan for the construction of a landmark building for the scenic arts" - in other words, an opera house.

But Matas was prohibited from announcing the planned project, which involved a €100 million price tag, given that the party was in the middle of its electoral campaign.

In the event, the 2007 elections saw Matas ousted. The new center-left Balearic Islands government discarded the plan for Calatrava's opera house, leading him to demand that they return the scale model and the audiovisual CD made for the presentation that never was - Calatrava considers these items to be his intellectual and material property.

Meanwhile, the regional councilor for culture, Bárbara Galmes of the Socialist Party (PSOE), is considering how to recover the advance that was paid to Calatrava for the project, and hopes to use the funds for projects such as the building of new schools.

[Copyright EL PAÍS, SL. / ALBERTO URIONA 2007]

Subject: Spanish news

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