As if on a tour of a dystopian setting, the remains of the megalomaniacal Valencia can still be seen resting on a vacant lot. Just a sheet metal wall separates the Príncipe Felipe research center, the last building of the City of Arts and Sciences, from a field of bushes in which there are a series of 20-meter-long steel plates. The 160 plates, which weigh nearly 1,400 kilos, are the slats designed to cover the building called Ágora, by Santiago Calatrava, which has been rusting for ten years in the wasteland despite its millionaire cost.
A last coat of paint in the Ágora de Calatrava for 1.8 million to deliver it without “incidents” to Caixaforum
It has taken the regional Executive almost two legislatures to give the building stable use, which due to its morphology is complex to occupy. In 2017, the Consell de Ximo Puig began conversations with the la Caixa Foundation to provide content for an ambiguous skeleton that now aspires to be a benchmark in cultural activity. The Ágora, which has housed the new CaixaForum since June, has hosted the Tennis Open for five calls, the Valencia Fashion Week, various end-of-year parties, the Campus Party and a PP rally for the elections European, with Mariano Rajoy as the protagonist, before signing the agreement with the Fundación la Caixa for its cultural use.
Now that the infrastructure is ceded for the next 50 years, after a reform that began in 2020, the Valencian Government is studying how to get rid of the shadow of the building, which despite having cost 11.4 million euros, has no more value than that of the material itself. Those responsible for the City of Arts and Sciences want to submit to the entity’s board of directors a proposal for the auction of the plates, which appear as heritage of the instrumental public sector in each balance sheet.
The process, they point out, will be quite complex and at the moment they are in the study phase. The slats are among the assets of the company, they must be removed from the inventory and put out to a public auction procedure. The proposal must contemplate a range of market prices per kilo of steel, with which the managers know that there will be an economic loss, but the slats have already been paid for and have a certain value. It is the exaggerated equivalent of selling the bricks that are left over from a public work.
The installation of the plates is unfeasible due to the cost of assembly and maintenance. At CACSA they estimate that placing them on the roof, the architect’s initial project, would cost another 12 million euros, practically the same as the slats themselves. In addition, they point out, the work would imply paralyzing the activity of the CaixaForum and they do not contemplate interrupting one of the star projects of the Government of the Botanical Pact.
Along with the slats, face B of the Agora is located in the warehouses of the City of Arts and Sciences. There are the motors and other materials that were to make up the mobile roof of the building, in which the metal parts would be inserted, as if it were an eyelid with tabs that opens and closes. The metal plates occupy a plot of about 20,000 square meters that the CACSA management is studying to allocate to other uses
The building designed at the time of the euphoria of the PP drags a history of shadow and cost overruns. Already in 2011, the Esquerra Unida deputy Ignacio Blanco denounced the poor state of the steel plates and presented a battery of parliamentary questions to urge the Executive of Francisco Camps to clarify their use. In 2009, the Audit Office warned in a report that the building, then unfinished, already exceeded its initial costs by 86%. Santiago Calatrava’s Ágora project, the “cathedral” as Rita Barberá called it, ended up costing close to 100 million euros after the modifications to the project.