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Santiago Calatrava - Spain's Modern Architect

Updated on April 3, 2012
Architecture by Calatrava in his hometown of Valencia, Spain.  Ciutate de las Artes i les Ciencies.
Architecture by Calatrava in his hometown of Valencia, Spain. Ciutate de las Artes i les Ciencies. | Source
Puente (Bridge) del Alamillo in Sevilla, Spain.   Built in 1992.
Puente (Bridge) del Alamillo in Sevilla, Spain. Built in 1992. | Source

Santiago Calatrava Valls

One of the world's most innovative, unusual, original, and creative architect comes from Valencia, Spain. He is a Spanish architect, sculptor and structural engineer in the Spanish modernist form and tradition that derives from fellow Spaniards, Felix Candela and Antonio Gaudi.

He is none other than Santiago Calatrava Valls, known in the architect world only as Santiago Calatrava. His architecture and engineering spans Europe, Canada and the United States.

He was born in Valencia, Spain in 1951. He received his undergraduate degree at The Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain. He graduated in 1975 and then completed a post-graduate course in urbanism. He followed this by enrolling in the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. He graduated from here in 1981 with the equivalent of a Ph.D. in civil engineering, and started his architecture and engineering practice. Since then, he has joined the elite designers of the world and he has offices in Zurich, Paris, Valencia and New York City, with his principal office in Zurich, Switzerland.

During his studies in Spain he undertook independent projects with a group of fellow students and wrote two books on the vernacular architecture of Valencia and Ibiza, Spain. His early career was dedicated to building innovative bridges and train stations and he elevated the status of civil engineering projects to new and creative heights.

Calatrava's style is very personal and comes from numerous studies of the human body and natural world that he made as he honed his craft. His style is explained as bridging (no pun intended) the division between structural engineering and architecture that certainly can be seen in the design of his bridges. I personally love the sloping lines and curves that he includes in his structures. His bridges are certainly not boring to look at. They are unusual structures that slope and weave across the river or gorge they hover over and literally look as if they are free-hanging in the air. They seem to follow the lines of the horizon and nature around them and to me integrate the sky, water and land into one mesmerizing snapshot.

Quadracci Pavilion of the Milwaukee Art Museum.    Designed by Calatrava; built and completed in 2001.
Quadracci Pavilion of the Milwaukee Art Museum. Designed by Calatrava; built and completed in 2001. | Source
Allen Lambert Galleria at Brookfield Place in Toronto, Canada.
Allen Lambert Galleria at Brookfield Place in Toronto, Canada. | Source
Turning Torso (2005) In  Malmo, Sweden.
Turning Torso (2005) In Malmo, Sweden. | Source

Calatrava's Projects

For the 1992 Olympic site in Barcelona, Spain, Calatrava designed and built the Monjuic Communication Towerin the middle of the Olympic site atop Monjuic which overlooks the beautiful city of Barcelona. Also, in 1992,he designed and built the Allen Lambert Galleriain Toronto, Canada. You can see in this structure of his that the arches are reminiscent of, yet a modern take on, the arches seen in the cathedrals and churches throughout Spain and Europe. These two structures were important turning points in Calatrava's career and lead to a wide range of new commissions and greater work for him.

His first building designed and built by Calatrava in the U.S. was the Quadracci Pavilion (2001) of the Milwaukee Art Museum in Wisconsin. Notice the unusual design with the low horizontal lines and the ball in the middle, almost giving the impression of an airplane of some sort or a bird of some sort. The side of the pavilion even has "wings" that actually open and close. A moving structure!

Calatrava then moved on with his twisty high rise design, the Turning Torso(2005), a 54-story high twisting tower resting in Malmo, Sweden. It follows the twisting torso like that of man turning around and emphasises his focus on designing buildings like the human body.

He is currently designing the future train station at the World Trade Center Transportation Hub at the rebuilt World Trade Center in New York City.

Some of his most recent projects have had to be cancelled because of the real estate bust in the U.S. and Europe in 2008. As a result of the real estate bubble bursting his residential skyscraper at 80 South Street in the New York City financial district facing the East River was not filled. This project known as the "Townhouse in the sky" design was a cluster of ten townhouse designed in the shape of cubes stacked on top of one another. The townhouses move up a main beam and follow a ladder-like pattern so that each townhouse has its own roof. The unusual design was done to attract a high-profile clientele willing to pay $30 million U.S. dollars for a cube. As of 2008, none of the townhouse has been sold. This is not surprising.

Another American skyscraper Calatrava has designed, but is now cancelled, is the Chicago Spire in Chicago, Illinois. It was to be completed in 2011 but was cancelled in early 2010 when investors' financing fell through. Had it been completed it was to have been the tallest building in the world.

Calatrava presently has designed three bridges that will span the Trinity River in Dallas, Texas. The first bridge, the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge opened for traffic last month (March 2012. Hopefully, the other two bridges will be completed soon and on time.

And, lastly, this spring 2012, the Peace Bridge in Calgary, Alberta, Canada is to be completed. It is a pedestrian bridge to span the Bow River in downtown Calgary.

Calatrava's other significant projects built throughout the world are the Athens Olympic Sports Complex, the Auditorio de Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Chords Bridge, and the Ciutate de las Arts i les Ciencies in Valencia, Spain.

I like Calatrava's remarkable and unusual building designs and they add rather than detract from the city horizons they are in. Each structure is uplifting to me and adds a modern, contemporary twist to the city. His meshing of architecture and engineering in his bridges and structures is genius. His structures also hold up over time because they are well constructed.

Calatrava will be remembered and go down in history as a great Spanish designer and architect and artist as well as remembered on the international stage. His design and structures add class and elegance to each city they are built in.

Which city will Santiago Calatrava grace next with his genius designs and structures?

Auditorio de Tenerife, Canary Islands.
Auditorio de Tenerife, Canary Islands. | Source
Ponte Reggio Emilia.  Bridge  in Italy designed by Calatrava.
Ponte Reggio Emilia. Bridge in Italy designed by Calatrava. | Source

Calatrava's "Wings" on the Milwaukee Museum of Art


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  • suzettenaples profile image

    Suzette Walker 4 years ago from Taos, NM

    Vinaya: Yes, is buildings are wonderful and so creatively designed and built. I have seen a few when in Spain, and they take your breath away. Thanks so much for your visit and I'm glad you enjoyed this.

  • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

    Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

    I did not know about this architect. Santiago Calatrava Valls' works are amazing.

  • suzettenaples profile image

    Suzette Walker 5 years ago from Taos, NM

    Hi Hyphen: I agree with you - these artists and architects are geniuses and masters at what they do. His buildings are beautiful and so unusual. Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate it.

  • Hyphenbird profile image

    Brenda Barnes 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    I feel like I just had a tour of an art museum. When I see how talented people are and what can be accomplished, I am awed. This man had genius in his soul. Wow

    Even the name Santiago Calatrava is musical.

  • suzettenaples profile image

    Suzette Walker 5 years ago from Taos, NM

    Pamela99: I think his architecture is gorgeous too. I have seen it in person, on Monjuic in Barcelona, but I didn't know the name then, or I have forgotten if I did. I recently was talking to some friends about architecture and his name came up, so I did some research and discovered his beautiful architecture. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 5 years ago from United States

    The architecture is gorgeous. I would love to see it in person. This is a very interesting hub.

  • suzettenaples profile image

    Suzette Walker 5 years ago from Taos, NM

    WD: I was probably teaching! I was a Spanish teacher, so some of this comes from former lessons. Calatrava, though, I just learned about recently, but I love his architecture. It is in such harmony with nature. I love the modern looking buildings when they have curves and swooping sides, etc. I don't like harsh right angles and straight up and down. So, Calatrava is right up my alley. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  • WD Curry 111 profile image

    WD Curry 111 5 years ago from Space Coast

    Spain always has some of the best architecture in the world, no matter the period or style. Where were you when I was dong reports in school. This is a great reference for students.