Not every piece of architecture can be an economic and social success. But there is one dreaded term reserved for only the mot wasteful of projects: "white elephants." The term comes from a story of the kings of Siam, now Thailand, who would reportedly gift sacred albino elephants to courtiers they didn't like. Refusing the gift from the king would have been unacceptable, but being sacred, these animals were forbidden from work, leading the courtier to financial ruin—a fact the kings knew all too well.
Of course, in architecture the term "white elephant" is used frequently to disparage certain projects, and whether a project is deserving of such infamy is usually a matter of perspective. Often eyesores or reminders of poorly spent funds, these projects refuse to be forgotten despite few wanting to remember them. Dotted around the world and across history, they all have the same thing in common: although they may (or may not) have once looked good on paper, they probably should have just stayed on paper.
Santiago Calatrava's City of Arts and Sciences has taken a starring role in Tomorrowland, Disney's latest blockbuster. Located in the former riverbed of the Turia in Valencia, Spain, the City of Arts and Sciences comprises a cinema (L'Hemisfèric), a landscaped walk and sculpture garden (L'Umbracle), the Príncipe Felipe Science Museum, the largest aquarium in Europe (L'Oceanográfico), and the renowned Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia. The complex was constructed in stages commencing in July 1996, and opened to the public in October 2005. Unique and strikingly futuristic, the iconic group of buildings caught the eye of Tomorrowland producer Jeffrey Chernov, who spoke effusively of the building at a recent press conference for the film.
"Calatrava's architecture is just phenomenal and inventive and exciting. It's very skeletal, like you're looking at the vertebrae of a dinosaur or prehistoric fish," said Chernov. "You walk into that place and you never want to leave. That's the vibe we wanted for Tomorrowland."
Will the peeling shell of Santiago Calatrava’s Palau de les Arts in Valencia be saved by an innovative, new paint? Calatrava's $455.6 million project, which surpassed its budget four times over, has sprouted many defects over the years, but none more damning than its peeling facade - a defect that spurred the city of Valencia to sue Calatrava's office. However, Spanish paint manufacturer Graphenano has proposed an innovative solution: Graphenstone, a mixture of limestone powder and the allotrope graphene, which should just prevent further deterioration. Whether the solution could also relieve some courtroom tension, remains to be seen. Read more on Inhabitat and The Architect's Newspaper.