Santiago Calatrava is a Spanish architect famous for his dramatic, sculptural structures. With his knowledge of art and science, he creates some of the most unique landmarks in existence. His most identifying works include rib cage-like buildings and seemingly impossible bridges. Behind the daring architectural feats, here are the following facts:
1. Calatrava began his career in sculpture.
- He studied sculpting, painting, and drawing at the School of Fine Arts starting at age eight.
- Calatrava derived his architectural ideas from sculpting. He worked by combining the expressiveness of sculpture with the function of architecture.
2. Some regard Calatrava as the modern Da Vinci.
- After earning his architectural degree, he studied urban planning. He was under the tutelage of esteemed architect Juan Carlos Jimenez.
- Calatrava studied structural engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. He received a Ph.D. in technical science.
3. His family pushed him to seek his future outside of Spain.
- The Calatravas suffered from political attacks during Spain’s dictatorship in the 1930s. To protect him, they sent thirteen-year-old Santiago to Paris as an exchange student.
- Today, Calatrava is fluent in seven languages. His engineering and architecture firm has offices in Zürich, Valencia, Paris, and New York.
4. He earned international acclaim for designing mind-boggling bridges.
- The Alamillo Bridge in Spain is composed of a single pylon and thirteen cables. The asymmetrical and striking structure resembles a harp, swan, or ship’s mast.
- The Sundial Bridge across the Sacramento River is a functioning sundial. It casts a shadow that moves one foot per minute and has no supports in the water to preserve the river’s salmon habitat.
5. Calatrava designs buildings based on natural and animal forms.
- His first civic commission is to expand the Zürich Stadelhofen railway station. His design was inspired by the rib cage of a dog skeleton given to him by a veterinary student.
- His design for the Milwaukee Art Museum includes a sunshade that resembles the wings of a bird. The movable shade, which controls the lighting within, mimics the flapping motion.
6. Calatrava’s projects are sometimes too costly to build.
- Some governments had to drop commissions due to Calatrava’s hundred million price tags.
- Calatrava was set to create the Chicago Spire which was to be the world’s tallest skyscraper. The project was abandoned in 2008 due to the inflated $1.2 billion cost, as well as the economic recession.
Santiago Calatrava’s union of supposedly contradictory principles has created awe-inspiring structures. His creations serve as an inspiration for many to also reach for the skies.