Monday, July 11, 2011

Hadid's Seville Library to be Demolished

In September 2009 I reported in Architectural Record on the court case to halt construction of the new central library for the University of Seville, designed by Zaha Hadid. After a local court ruled against the project, the case made its way to Spain's highest court, the Tribunal Supremo, which handed down its unappealable decision late last month: Hadid's project, partially completed at a cost of roughly 4 million euros, must be demolished (El País 06.26.11).

The suit was brought by a group of neighborhood residents who objected to the construction of the building in a public park, situated near the Plaza de España and other university buildings.  The court ruled that the city's and university's decision to sacrifice part of the park for the project  --about 8% of its total area--  was not sufficiently justified. The project's backers, the court ruled, had not presented sufficient evidence for why the library could not be built elsewhere.

City and university authorities now plan to meet to find another site for the library.

Until recently, politicians in Spain have enjoyed a surprisingly free hand in making important planning decisions such as this, with minimal public comment, participation or protest. But as the case shows, this began to change even before the current crisis.

The neighbors who brought the suit were openly hostile to the Hadid design. Why is it always Hadid who attracts such hostility? Why is it always Hadid who is made to pay for the public's most reactionary instincts? There are certainly others more deserving of public ire, but these are the same who tend to become public idols.

Local politicians throughout Spain have allowed themselves to be over-dazzled by big architectural names, and the case of Hadid in Seville is no exception. But the responsibility for this fiasco in court is clearly theirs, not hers.

In my 2009 article, Hadid’s project architect for the project, Sophie Le Bienvenu, explained that the building "lifts off the ground, so that the gardens extend under it." She pointed out that it will be open to the general public. “It's an addition to the park that promotes the city’s cultural life,” she says. “The park will still be there, and people will be able to enjoy it more.”

Meanwhile work proceeds on Cesar Pelli's 43-story bank tower in the center of Seville that opponents  say will destroy the city's historic skyline, and that has UNESCO threatening to put Seville on its list of endangered heritage sites. But that's another story.....

 And on a brighter note, Jürgen Mayer H's Metropol Parasol in Seville's Plaza de la Encarnación, with its gigantic glulam domes, has finally opened. From Rowan Moore's lively review in The Guardian last March:
Oh my God, it's an icon. How very last decade. Did the city of Seville not get the memo? Big, flashy buildings are out; hair shirts are in.
Top, Photo montage of library by Studio of Zaha Hadid
Middle, Photo montage of Pelli tower from El Mundo, 06.22.09
Bottom, Photo © Roland Halbe

1 comment:

  1. Rosemarie Mulcahy. Art HistorianJune 29, 2012 at 12:02 AM

    Congratulations to the citizens of Seville who have stopped Hadid's University library. It should never have been sited in the beautiful parkland of the Prado de San Sebastián and the design is totally unsuited to the climate. Egocentric starchitects rarely consider local conditions, cultural or climatic and seem interested only in making statements. Jurgen Mayer's gigantic mushrooms in the Plaza de la Encarnación is another example — intrusive, bleak podium surround, no shade, in a city where temperatures can reach 50 degrees c.