‘Copper’ campus: disappointment and reproach

19-11-2009

Housing association Servatius has dropped the curtain on the ‘copper’ campus designed by Spanish architect Calatrava. But the dismissed director still sees possibilities. UM management seriously criticises Servatius and the choice of the architect, although initially, the design was applauded.

It was a bizarre situation last Wednesday: upstairs in a room on the first floor of the Van der Valk hotel in Maastricht, Paul Driever, interim director of Servatius, explained during a press conference why construction of the campus in Randwijck cannot proceed, while downstairs in the hall Leks Verzijlbergh, the director who was dismissed per 1 October, explained to anyone who cared to listen that this fiasco would never have happened if had he been allowed to continue. “We would have been building now.” Two days later, he even has it put in writing that he will do everything possible to find financial partners to enable the campus to be built after all. This time without Servatius.

In the aftermath of what might become the biggest building disaster of this city - a loss of 60 million euros for Servatius, all of the earthworks having already been carried out – disappointment prevails, but words of reproach were also flying. André Postema, vice-president of the UM Executive Board, accuses the corporation of making serious calculation and assessment errors; Servatius director Driever, who took up the position this year, told the press in a dejected way that when the estimated budget went from 165 to 202 million euros, the province, the city and the university all claimed how important the campus was, “but when it was time to put their money where their mouth was, none of them were prepared to make any investment ”. He did want to admit that “the UM did its best”. But that was not enough.

It is clear that the management of the university changed its tone. Exactly one year ago, Ritzen praised the plan by architect Calatrava as “a landmark for Maastricht and the university; the UM embraced the Calatrava qualities enthusiastically”. But Postema stated on regional television station L1 last Thursday that it was also the choice of this architect that had led to the problems, because he “argued about everything and his projects always end up more expensive”. Ritzen is supposed to have reported this to Servatius at an early stage. However, this cannot have been at a very early stage. Choosing Calatrava occurred half way through 2000, while Ritzen took up his position with the UM in February 2003.

In the meantime, Calatrava's agency has responded to Postema's comments. It says that they are harmful and that legal action may be taken.

Calling off the construction means that almost a hundred guest house apartments for foreign students will not be built, just like the new sports hall. Postema has already announced that the UM will look for a solution for these issues.

 

Wammes Bos

‘Copper’ campus: disappointment and reproach
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Loraine Bodewes Fotografie

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