Santiago Calatrava is a Catalan architect, engineer, and artist known for his beautiful, neo-futuristic buildings and bridges and his amazing ability to create visual statements. I admire his career and his ingenuity and I always look forward to what he will achieve next.
Some striking examples of his work are the apartment tower in Malmö, Sweden, its shape suggesting a twisting spinal column. For the Milwaukee Art Museum in Wisconsin, he created a feature that looks like the wings of a bird as it opens and closes. The gravity-defying Alamillo Bridge in Seville is a straight steel-shell tower, filled with reinforced concrete. It leans backwards, counterbalancing a 200-meter span with thirteen pairs of cables.
Born in Valencia in 1951, Calatrava studied architecture at the Polytechnic University of Valencia, and graduated in 1974. In Zürich he started a course in structural engineering. He finished his doctorate in 1979 and opened his own architecture and engineering firm in the city. His first major project was Stadelhofen railway station, which featured soaring and swooping structures. He later went on to open offices in Paris, Valencia, and New York.
With Santiago Calatrava at Expo 2020 Dubai.
The Bach de Roda Bridge in Barcelona, completed in 1987, was his first bridge design and was built for the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992. Often described as one of the world’s most beautiful libraries is the Law Library at the University of Zürich, completed in 2004. His design for the World Trade Center’s Oculus (a transit hub connecting 12 subway lines completed in 2016) resembles a bird in flight, representing the rebirth of lower Manhattan after the September 11 attacks.
Calatrava’s latest attention-grabbing design for the UAE Pavilion at the 2020 Expo Dubai is one of my favorites at the Expo. The four-story structure is covered with 28 automated wings that open and close, and was inspired by the falcon, the UAE’s national bird. When open, the wings reveal built-in solar panels that send electricity to the main power grid. When not in use, the panels are protected from the elements, including the region’s powerful sandstorms.
Drawing inspiration from the region, the building itself is shaped like a traditional Bedouin tent. Spanning 161,000 square feet, this is the largest pavilion at the expo. It won Calatrava the 2021 AD Design Award for Architecture.
Calatrava’s vision has earned him numerous honors throughout his career. In 2015, he was awarded the European Prize for Architecture, for his contributions to the architectural heritage and history of Europe.
What inspires me most about his work is his ability to design iconic projects that combine architecture, art, and engineering, and define numerous cities across Europe and beyond. I can’t wait to see what he will come up with next.