Simone Brott


Today, iconic architecture is the dominant mode of contemporary public life, but the wishes of the European city and role of public space are based on financial emergencies—even if the term ‘financial’ is screened out by the mesmeric distraction of such spectral, prodigal buildings. While iconic architecture parades as visual stunt—an “avant garde” project of the digital image that violently pushes physics and engineering to its limits—such projects are only made possible by giant debt arrangements; and, as I will argue, their primary agenda is to solve serious financial problems. Yet, not only do these projects often fail to generate the future income (fictitious capital) promised and thus leave the town with an impossible 30-year mortgage that might never be repaid, iconic developments also have the power to contribute to distortions of capital (economic crises) beyond the project and the city itself. This essay will examine the Olympic development and iconic objects designed by Santiago Calatrava for the Athens Summer Games in 2004, and the dual Olympic-budget crisis and national crisis that converged on Calatrava’s project. After the games, the Greek Olympic development attracted considerable financial critique from outside the architectural discipline: economists debated how the Olympic development was implicated in the Greek crisis, and a parallel Left protest-movement against Calatrava, the public figure, for financial corruption through iconic projects gained traction. Regardless of the veracity of these arraignments; in Greece, I propose the Olympic development became a visual cipher for the ongoing Greek crisis. Calatrava’s project illustrates the ways in which National crises in Europe today are played out via architectural icons, and the transformation of public space into both a financial medium and narrator of financial crisis.


How to Cite
Brott, S. (2017) “Calatrava in Athens. The architect as financier and the iconic city”, The Journal of Public Space, 2(1), pp. 15–32. doi: 10.5204/jps.v2i1.47.


Aesopos, Yannis. (2010). Diffused Athens: From polykatoikia to networks. In mapping Athens in the 21st century. Pidgin Journal of the Princeton School of Architecture(8), 228-241.

Anonymous. (2016). Greece - stadium and arena development news. Retrieved 6 December 2016, 2016, from http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=637074&page=2

Arcspace.com. (2003). Athens olympic sports complex: Santiago Calatrava. Retrieved 6 December 2016, from http://www.arcspace.com/features/santiago-calatrava/athens-olympic-sports-complex/

Atika Shubert, Mairi Mackay, Arwa Damon, C. N. N. (2016, March 9). Refugees in Greece live in olympic park, old airport, CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/09/europe/greece-refugees-olympic-park-airport/index.html

Bari, Vito Di. (2007, Online 2014). From manifesto of futurist architecture to manifesto of neo-futuristic city. Milan.

Barney, Robert K, Wenn, Stephen R, & Martyn, Scott G. (2002). The international olympic committee and the rise of olympic commercialism: Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah Press.

Beltran, Adolf. (2012, May 4). Calatrava ha cobrado más de 94 millones por la ciudad de las artes y las ciencias, El País. Retrieved from http://ccaa.elpais.com/ccaa/2012/05/03/valencia/1336074084_564574.html

Berg, Nate. (2016, August 3). The urban games: For olympic host cities, wins and losses last forever, Curbed.com. Retrieved from http://www.curbed.com/2016/8/3/12342520/olympic-city-host-rio-athens-london

Berlin, Peter. (2015, July 10). How the olympics rotted Greece, Politico. Retrieved from http://www.politico.eu/article/how-the-olympics-rotted-greece/

Blanco, Ignacio. (2016). City of arts. Retrieved from http://www.calatravanonoscalla.com/ - !/ciutat-de-les-arts/

Bloomberg. (2016). Goldman sachs urban investment group: Private company information. from http://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=5900483

Brott, Simone. (2012). Modernity's opiate, or, the crisis of iconic architecture. Log: Observations on Architecture and the Contemporary City(26), 49-59.

Brott, Simone. (2017). Reflections on damaged modernity: Lessons from the iconic architecture industry. [Journal Article]. Log: observations on architecture and the contemporary city, 37. doi: http://eprints.qut.edu.au/90151/

Byrne, Michael. (2016). ‘Asset price urbanism’and financialization after the crisis: Ireland's national asset management agency. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.

Caro, Robert A. (1975). The power broker : Robert moses and the fall of new york. New York: Vintage Books.

Daley, Suzanne. (2013, September 24). A star architect leaves some clients fuming, The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/25/arts/design/santiago-calatrava-collects-critics-as-well-as-fans.html

Dodson, Sean. (2008, October 15). Was software responsible for the financial crisis?, The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2008/oct/16/computing-software-financial-crisis

European Commission. (2014). The european union explained: Economic and monetary union and the euro. In European Union (Ed.). Luxembourg, Belgium: European Commission.

Fischer-Baum, Reuben. (2012). Animated infographic: Watch as america's stadiums pile up on the backs of taxpayers through the years, Deadspin. Retrieved from http://deadspin.com/5964116/animated-infographic-watch-as-americas-stadiums-pile-up-on-the-backs-of-taxpayers

Geenwoordspaans. (2013a). Calatrava towers – Valencia (Spain). Retrieved from https://thefullcalatrava.wordpress.com/author/geenwoordspaans/page/2/

Geenwoordspaans. (2013b). Post: Campus Maastricht – Maastricht (NL). Retrieved from https://thefullcalatrava.wordpress.com/tag/calatrava/

Geenwoordspaans. (2013c). Posts: Campus Maastricht (NL), Calatrava towers – Valencia (Spain), ponte della costituzione – Venice (IT). Retrieved from https://thefullcalatrava.wordpress.com/category/full-articles/

Geenwoordspaans. (2014). Post: Full Calatrava project list. Retrieved from https://thefullcalatrava.wordpress.com/

Geenwoordspaans. (2016). The full Calatrava. Retrieved 1 October 2016, 2016, from https://thefullcalatrava.wordpress.com/

Goldman, Michael. (2011). Speculative urbanism and the making of the next world city. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 35(3), 555-581.

Goldman, Michael. (2015). Financial magic and the urban hustle: Creating upheaval in the U.S., Spain, and india. Paper presented at the UCLA Comparative Social Analysis Seminar, UCLA California. http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/soc/soc237/papers/2015-01/michaelgoldman.pdf

Govan, Fiona. (2012, September 29). Valencia: The ghost city that’s become a symbol of spain’s spending woes, The Telegraph. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9573568/Valencia-the-ghost-city-thats-become-a-symbol-of-Spains-spending-woes.html

Graham Dunbar, Stephen Wilson, Raf Casert. (2010). Did olympics cause greek financial crisis?, ESPN Associated Press. Retrieved from http://www.espn.com/espn/wire/_/section/oly/id/5245863

Guironnet, Antoine, & Halbert, Ludovic. (2014). The financialization of urban development projects: Concepts, processes, and implications. Document de Travail du Latts–Working Paper (14-04), 44.

Halbert, Ludovic, & Attuyer, Katia. (2016). Introduction: The financialisation of urban production: Conditions, mediations and transformations. Urban Studies, 53(7), 1347-1361.

Harvey, David. (2001). Globalization and the spatial fix. Geographische revue, 2(3), 23-31.

Jacobs, Jane. (1961). The death and life of great american cities: Vintage.

Kassam, Ashifa. (2015, June 9). Controversial architect santiago Calatrava defends his record, The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/jun/09/santiago-calatrava-defends-record-architect-spain

Koutantou, Angeliki. (2016, June 7). Greece revises hellenikon property deal, unlocking bailout funds, Reuters. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-eurozone-greece-privatisation-idUSKCN0YT1AW

Libby, Brian. (2004). In the shadow of the parthenon, W ArchitectureWeek. Retrieved from http://www.architectureweek.com/2004/1020/design_1-2.html

Malkoutzis, Nick. (2012, August 2). How the 2004 olympics triggered greece's decline, Bloomberg. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-08-02/how-the-2004-olympics-triggered-greeces-decline

Marinetti, F. T. (1909). Fondazione e manifesto del futurismo : Pubblicato dal "figaro" di parigi il 20 febbraio 1909. Milano: "Poesia" via Senato, 2.

Marinetti, F. T., & Nevinson, C. R. W. (1914). Vital english art : Futurist manifesto. Italy: s.n.

Marx, Karl. (1996). Capital volume III: The process of capitalist production as a whole. NY: International Publishers.

Moreno, Louis. (2014). The urban process under financialised capitalism. City, 18(3), 244-268.

N. Zonzilos, E. Demian, E. Papadakis, N. Paratsiokas, S. Danchev. (2015). The impact of the 2004 olympic games on the greek economy. Athens, Greece: Ι∆ΡΥΜΑ ΟΙΚΟΝΟΜΙΚΩΝ & ΒΙΟΜΗΧΑΝΙΚΩΝ ΕΡΕΥΝΩΝ IOBE. THE FOUNDATION FOR ECONOMIC & INDUSTRIAL RESEARCH.

Neo Futurist Collective. (2008). Manifesto of neo-futurism. from https://neofuturistcollective.com/manifesto-of-neo-futurism/

News.com.au. (2014, August 14). ‘Biggest mistake in our history’, News.com.au. Retrieved from http://www.news.com.au/sport/more-sports/athens-olympic-site-in-ruins-10-years-on-from-2004-games/news-story/be7db5728f668c45b6048477be116445

Plöger, Jörg (2008). Bilbao city report CASE.

Reich, Robert B. (2015, July 16). How goldman sachs profited from the greek debt crisis, The Nation. Retrieved from https://www.thenation.com/article/goldmans-greek-gambit/

Robinson, William I. (2010). The crisis of global capitalism: Cyclical, structural, or systemic? Orfalea Center for Global & International Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Rutland, Ted. (2010). The financialization of urban redevelopment. Geography Compass, 4(8), 1167-1178.

Santiago Calatrava Architects & Engineers. (2016). Olympic sports complex: Athens. Projects. from http://www.calatrava.com/projects/olympic-sports-complex-athens.html

Shin, Hyun Bang. (2013). China's speculative urbanism and the built environment. China Policy Institute Blog.

Singer, Jonny. (2014, August 6). Athens' olympic venues lie abandoned and left to decay ten years on, Daily Mail UK. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/olympics/article-2717614/Athens-Olympic-Games-venues-lie-abandoned-left-decay-ten-years-spending-7bn-welcome-Olympics-home.html

Smith, Helena. (2012, May 9). Athens 2004 olympics: What happened after the athletes went home?, The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2012/may/09/athens-2004-olympics-athletes-home

Smyth, Sharon R., & Gittelsohn, John. (2013). Blackstone begins rental housing empire in Spain. Bloomberg Media.

Stamouli, Nektaria. (2015a). Greece meets deadline to repay IMF bailout loan, The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com/articles/greece-pays-imf-loan-1428570520

Stamouli, Nektaria. (2015b, 9 April 2015). Greece meets deadline to repay IMF bailout loan: Demonstration organized to protest Athens’ decision to pay $494 million installment, The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com/articles/greece-pays-imf-loan-1428570520

Stevens, Richard. (2004, March 31). Athens costs set to soar over budget, The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2004/mar/31/athensolympics2004.olympicgames

Tagaris, Karolina. (2014, August 7). Olympics-ten years on, Athens 2004 gives Greece little to cheer, Reuters Editorial. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/olympics-greece-idUSL6N0QA1YG20140807

thefullcalatrava. (2016). Maastricht university on the full Calatrava. from https://thefullcalatrava.wordpress.com/tag/maastricht-university/

Traganou, Jilly. (2008). Shades of blue: Debating greek identity through santiago calatrava's design for the Athens olympic stadium. Journal of Modern Greek Studies, 26(1), 185-214.

Tremlett, Giles. (2012, May 8). Architect santiago Calatrava accused of 'bleeding Valencia dry', The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/may/08/architect-santiago-calatrava-valencia

Walker, Alissa. (2016). Can you guess how much NYC paid the architect of the most expensive train station on earth?, gizmodo.com.au. Retrieved from http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2016/04/can-you-guess-how-much-the-nyc-paid-the-architect-of-the-most-expensive-train-station-on-earth/

Young, Joseph. (2008). The neo futurist collective. from http://www.neofuturist.org/main.php

Zimbalist, Andrew. (2016). Circus maximus: The economic gamble behind hosting the olympics and the world cup: Brookings Institution Press.