Architect took concerns about bidding process to Pawlenty

  • Article by: JIM FOTI , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 24, 2007 - 11:27 PM

The world-renowned Santiago Calatrava included his ideas for the new I-35W bridge in his letter to the governor.

Santiago Calatrava

Santiago Calatrava

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Santiago Calatrava, the famed Spanish architect, wants to design the Interstate 35W bridge, and he registered his frustration with the bidding process in a letter to the governor last week.

The letter was dated Sept. 17, two days before the contract was awarded to a team led by Flatiron Constructors of Colorado.

Calatrava wrote that he had partnered with the Walsh/American Bridge team and had created a design that could meet the state's budget and timetable.

Calatrava says his firm requested permission to include an "alternative technical concept" in its proposal. In other words, some aspect of his team's design differed from what the Minnesota Department of Transportation had sought. Such variations are allowed and may be bounced off MnDOT before the deadline for submissions, though MnDOT reserves the right to not respond to such requests.

Calatrava says his alternative was rejected the day before the Sept. 14 deadline for technical proposals.

'We are very disappointed'

"After working so hard on the design and creating over 130 drawings and two models, we are very disappointed that we have not had the opportunity to present our proposal" to state officials, he wrote. The letter encouraged Gov. Tim Pawlenty to check out enclosed sketches and a DVD with an animation of the bridge design.

State officials are not commenting on the specifics of any bid until after the contract with the winning team is signed. Brian McClung, a spokesman for Pawlenty, said last week that if Calatrava partnered with one of the teams that did not win the contract and the team accepted the $500,000 stipend offered to losing teams, "then the design work put together by Mr. Calatrava could be incorporated into the design-build plans of the winning bidder."

Claire Whittaker, a spokeswoman in Calatrava's New York office, said Monday that she didn't know whether the Walsh/American Bridge team would be taking the stipend. The architect does not plan to make his bridge sketches available to the public at this point, she said.

Walsh Construction did not return a call seeking comment Monday. The two other teams that submitted bids, C.S. McCrossan and Ames/Lunda, have filed a formal protest with the state over the selection of Flatiron.

Nation's tallest building

Calatrava's letter points out that his firm has built more than 40 bridges, including a light-rail bridge in Jerusalem that is being designed to account for the possibility of a terrorist attack. His firm also designed a 2,000-foot-tall residential tower under construction on the Chicago lakefront. Upon its completion in 2010, it will be the tallest building in the United States.

Calatrava has many fans in Minnesota's design community, including Ed Kodet, a Minneapolis architect who met Calatrava through the American Institute of Architects. Kodet said Monday that he nominated Calatrava for the AIA's highest award in 2005 and that Calatrava won.

Jim Foti • 612-673-4491

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