A judge in Valencia has ordered a political party to pay €30,000 (£24,400) in damages to the celebrated architect Santiago Calatrava over a website its members created to highlight the flaws and cost overruns in various projects he designed.
Calatrava took the Valencia branch of the leftwing party Esquerra Unida to court, demanding €600,000 in compensation over their website ‘Calatravatelaclava’, which loosely translates as “Calatrava bleeds you dry.”
The party founded the site in 2012 to take aim at the City of Arts and Sciences, an ambitious project meant to put Valencia on the map as a tourist destination. It said that from an original budget of €300m, the cost of the dazzling complex – which includes a concert hall, opera house, planetarium and science museum among its many features – swelled to more than €1bn by the time it was completed in 2005.
Calatrava, a native of Valencia, billed the government nearly €100m for the project, it added.
The complex has had structural problems in recent years, including a leaky concert hall roof. In December the hall was fenced off and closed for two months, after high winds blew chunks of the intricate mosaic off the building.
In his ruling, the judge said that the site had stated “objective truths”. He said the information was not controversial and “within the limits of the criticism reflecting the right to freedom of expression and information”, but that the site’s name was “insulting and degrading”.
The judge said the name suggested that Calatrava “does not act with the necessary professionalism and honour, but rather schemes, betrays and deceives”. The €30,000 would be “symbolic reparations for the pain caused” by the site, which he ordered to be shut down within 20 days.
Ignacio Blanco, the local politician behind the site said the ruling was incomprehensible, though he was quick to add: “It’s 20 times less than what Calatrava was asking for.”
After that, Esquerra Unida had relaunched the site under the new name ‘Calatrava no nos calla’, which translates as “Calatrava won’t silence us.” It was now “perfectly legal according to the sentence”, Blanco said.
The party would probably appeal against the ruling, Blanco added, and meantime it has launched a crowdfunding campaign in case they end up having to Calatrava.
The architect was unavailable for comment, but his lawyer, Santiago Thomás de Carranza, expressed his satisfaction with the ruling. “In the end, the court concluded that slander and defamation cannot go unpunished by the Spanish legal system,” he said in a statement.
This ruling came as Calatrava faces legal action from several of his clients, from a wine cellar with a leaking roof in the Álava province of northern Spain, to Venice, where cost overruns and repairs on a footbridge across the Grand Canal have angered city auditors.