Calatrava Got No Cred?

Keep saying it to yourself, over and over again: Legacy, legacy, legacy, legacy, eye candy, legacy, legacy...

In the paper version of Unfair Park hitting stands today, I have a piece about the first of three Santiago Calatrava bridges the city wants to build across the Trinity River. As usual I wrote too long, and I had to be cut for space. I expect that to be what St. Peter tells me when I'm standing on the cloud waiting to get in: "Sorry, pardner, but we're going to have to cut for space." Then he hauls out the big sickle.

But enough about my own ultimate destiny. There's a little point I'd still like to get across, even if I have to do it here in the pixelated-low-rez-wobbly- type-on-a-tiny-1950s-TV-set version of the paper. The city's original fascination with Calatrava, superstar Spanish architecture stud that he is, had a lot to do with high praise he got from former New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp. I say that much in the piece. Former council member, culture maven and steel-trap memory artist Veletta Lill accurately quoted to me a 1998 piece in The Times in which Muschamp wrote, "When it comes to bridge designers practicing in the world today, there's the Spanish architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava and there's everyone else."

But here's what got cut.

Muschamp stepped down as architecture critic for the Times in 2004. The New York Observer, a weekly newspaper not related to this one, reported at the time that Muschamp's apparently voluntary surrender of his post was "a relief to a new crop of editors unwilling to defend, as their predecessors did, the critic's iconoclasm and obscurantism, his unapologetic dilettantism and his unabashed socializing within the highest social circles of the creative world he judges in print."

My point? Well, I go on to say that Calatrava seems to be losing cred with the critics now. So, generally speaking, if you're going to place your bets according to what critics say, you better get in and out fast before the weather changes.

Larger point? To thrive, downtown has to be cool. And young. Bridges are not cool and young. White-water parks and bike trails are cool and young. But the water parks and trails originally planned for the Trinity have been gutted to pay for the museum-piece bridges and a toll road to nowhere.

Read all about it. In the paper. --Jim Schutze

Bonus MP3:

Sam Roberts, "Bridge to Nowhere" (off the 2006 release Chemical City)