By Nicholas Karakas (For a biography of the author please click here)
The heading of this article could have been OXI St. Nicholas Shrine, SI St. Calatrava Shrine.
Welcome to the modern version of Medea by Euripides, where the hiring of Calatrava to complete the shrine murders off any opportunity for a Greek Orthodox authentic architectural involvement in its completion. Of all the worldwide productions of Medea in numerous languages, it is ironic that this atrocity should fall to us, the Greeks.
Where to begin? Time and again our media have excoriated Santiago Calatrava for outstripping budgets while creating structures blemished with technical lapses, built in his ostentatious pattern of design and almost always behind schedule.
To be sure his guileful innovative architectural structures are awesome to behold. Yet the construction and completion process of his designs leave in many cases seemingly serious engineering design flaws, with spiraling out of control costs.
In the 208 projects Calatrava has worked on since 1979, at least 30 have been cited as over budget, abandoned or involved in lawsuits. Fellow Greek Orthodox followers, please digest this for a moment.
In Spain alone, 8 projects were saddled with cost over runs amounting in the 100’s of millions of dollars. Most notably, he has been called “a high-risk” architect. It seems deservedly so.
Most of his abandoned and silently disappearing projects, plus the horrendous financial costs associated with them, have left cities, universities and entrepreneurs struggling to recover from insolvency.
In what you have read thus far, you might ask, so what? You might say I read all of this stuff in the NY Times, the NY Post, NY Magazine and other media. What’s it to you? Why should I care?
As a member of the Orthodox faith, I care a great deal in the fact that Santiago Calatrava is once again going to be involved in the St. Nicholas Shrine at the World Trade Center. ENOUGH! It is with full measure that he designed the shrine and his name will always be associated with it. It is not enough that hard working Greek Americans who have contributed generously in support of its construction are being further taken advantage of for the completion of this shrine? What’s next?
What! Don’t we have any reputable Greek Orthodox Architects? It’s a shame that we have to endure the pomposity and arrogance and yet alone possible errors and omissions in the work Calatrava has already completed.
Then too, the Port Authority (PA), the monster which controls all bridges, rail and highways in NYC, NY State and NJ, has had and is having, a heyday in scandals, subpoenas and various exposes related to its budget and the World Trade Center. The PA appears to be the refuge of worn out politicians and their favorite old boy comrades, gathering big salaries, huge retirement pensions and bonuses. It is typical that this kind of organization would hire an architect the likes of Santiago Calatrava. The PA says to hell with you drivers, passengers and working class who have to shell out $32 plus to travel to and from work to use their infrastructure. I only mention this as background in what follows. Now comes the esteemed, innocent newbie Archbishop Elpidophoros, I fully expected, please forgive my naivety, that once his spiritual mission would begin, there would be a “house cleaning” at the Archdiocesan and Diocesan levels. None of which has yet happened.
What we have so far is a couple of new people at HCHC and zero at the Archdiocese revenue office, plus apparently, we are enveloped with a surprising lack of interest in cleaning the 25 years of disorder. So far, the Greek Orthodox Church in the 21st Century in America in this new age of the spiritual reign of the Archbishop has thus far allowed the church to remain a matter of personal convenience, no waves, no progress.
So, in spite all of the media coverage on Santiago Calatrava, we are presented with a new agreement by the PA and the Archdiocese to finalize the shrine. Where is the Greek American press? They are an important source of news and provide salient comments benefiting their Greek American readers. So why are they so quiet in accepting the employment of an over budget, beyond fixed completion dates Calatrava to be re-involved.
Just ponder you wonderful Guarantors, at a projected finish cost of $80 million, the shrine will have a price of $22,000 per square foot. Take away all the glamor, the aesthetic feelings in your involvement in this Calatrava shrine, why would you not only endorse but put your children and inheritance in this awkward position just to puff your chest and collective pride?
You know we Greeks have a lot of pride and we have a lot to be thankful for, but with the word getting out that we have invested in the shrine at $22,000/ sq. ft, we Orthodox will become the laughingstock of all time. Imagine laying this onus on our children and grandchildren. Remember dear faithful, the Shrine was scheduled to be completed at $30 million. I suspect with Calatrava back in the saddle, that the final cost will not be $80 million, but closer to $100 million.
The work of the Lord who has brought brains, talent and wealth to you should not be wasted on Calatrava’s services. The humble point here is that we Orthodox worshippers want the participation of new Orthodox talent, hardworking folk, smart, career successful people who would love and relish the opportunity to be a part of the Archdiocese goal to bring Greek Orthodoxy to the faithful, the lapsed, and fallen away and those who are studying to become one of us.
So now ladies and gentlemen of the Guarantor Committee, the ball is in your court.
Nick Karakas, Karakasn@yahoo.com, Naples, FL
January 14, 2020