Santiago Calatrava
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Top Architects | Santiago Calatrava

Home | Introduction | A Spanish artistic architect revealed | Background & Realizations: the projects | The Most Iconic Projects | Inspirational quotes by Santiago Calatrava | Talent is something that grows within you | The creator’s choice | Gallery


Santiago Calatrava was born in Valencia, Spain, in 1951. Architecture and Engineering are the two areas where Santiago Calatrava is known for. He is from Spain and moved to Zurique after finishing his degree in architecture, in 1974. There he studied Engineering.


During his degree in architecture he and some fellow students published to architecture books about the vernacular architecture of Valencia and Ibiza. Calatrava is also a sculptor and a painter, which reveals his strong artistic vein.


A Spanish artistic architect revealed

In Zurich he took a PhD in Technical Science. There he started his journey in architecture: he was an assistant at the Institute for Building Statics & Construction and Aerodynamics & Lightweight Construction, went to his first architectural and engineering practice. After this course of events Calatrava started to become member of some architecture associations: Schweizerische Ingenieur- und Architektenverein (SIA), International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering (IABSE), Bund Schweizer Architekten (BSA), International Academy of Architecture (IAA), Fazlur Khan International Fellowship for Arch. & Engineering, SOM Foundation.

Calatrava participated in the 17th Triennale di Milano, this in 1988. On the year after he started his second practice in architectural and engineering in Paris, France. At the beginning of the 90’s he started his third architectural and engineering practice in Valencia. In 1992 he joined “Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Carlos” has an honorary membership in Valencia.

On the years after he joined forums, was distinguished with “Doctor Honoris Causa” by the “Polytechnic University of Valencia” and also by the University of Sevilla. He also received a “Doctor Honoris Causa of Letters in Environmental Studies” by Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.

After all of this academic route, he had some incredible accomplishments and the proof of his success is that right now he has offices in New York City, Doha and Zurich, where he lives now.


Background & Realizations: the projects

Santiago Calatrava’s work first was concentrated on railway stations and his projects were different, you can clearly identify his work and feel the innovations.

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The Liège-Guillemins Railway Station, Liège –  Bélgica


Gare do Oriente Railway Station, Lisbon – Portugal

Going beyond the competition brief, Calatrava proposed piercing the embankment to establish a link between the previously separated areas of the Olivais District. The existing Avenida Berlin, perpendicular to the embankment, was extended to the river’s edge. The new Reciproca Avenida, a matching but slightly oblique avenue, was built on the northern edge to establish an important east-west axis penetrating the Expo site. This solution provided clear and easy pedestrian access among the various transport modes, while serving as the ordering principle for the entire proposal.

This gallery, with its translucent glass-block paving, is treated as an axial, ordering element that runs through the entire complex from west to east. Conceived as Expo’s primary transport connection, Oriente Station has proved to be the main component in the transformation of the whole Olivais District. It has become one of Europe’s most comprehensive transport nodes: an important interchange for high-speed intercity trains, rapid regional transport, standard rail services, tram and metro networks.

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TGV Railway Station next to Lyon – France

Montjuic Communications Tower in Barcelona

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The Montjuic Communications Tower rises to a height of 136 meters, dominates the main group of sports facilities on the slopes of the Montjuic in Barcelona, the site of the 1992 Summer Olympic Games. A competition entry for Telefonica, the steel tower is sited immediately next to the Palau Sant Jordi Arena, designed by Arata Isozaki. The tower not only became a symbolic focus to the dispersed Olympic complex but also a landmark for the city.


Allen Lambert Galleria, Toronto – Canada


Quadracci Pavilion (2001) of the Milwaukee Art Museum – this was first Calatrava’s building in the US.

Santiago entered in the high-rise design with its projects called Turning Torso (2005), located in Malmö, Sweden Santiago Calatrava claims that with his projects he continues a Spanish tradition in modernist engineering, that includes influences of big names of architecture like Félix Candela, Antonio Gaudí, and Rafael Guastavino.


The Most Iconic Projects

Calatrava’s work is all iconic in his way of being innovative and distinguished. His work has a signature. Anyhow there are some projects that we can definitely point out as some of the most iconic projects of Calatrava’s extense portefólio.

WTC Transportation HUB in New York

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In January 2004, Santiago Calatrava unveiled his design for the World Trade Center Transportation Hub: a new, permanent facility for Lower Manhattan, located immediately to the east of the original World Trade Center Twin Towers. The project replaces the original Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) rail system that was destroyed on September 11, 2001. In addition to serving the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) commuter trains, the building also connects to New York City subway trains (1, A, C and R lines); to provide seamless, indoor pedestrian access to Brookfield Place, towers 1, 2, 3 and 4, as well as the new Fulton Street Transit Center; and creates an inspiring, light-filled public gathering place.

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Calatrava’s first major design decision for the WTC Transportation Hub was to conceive the building at grade, the ‘Oculus’, as a free standing structure and situate it along the southern edge of Daniel Libeskind’s ‘Wedge of Light’ plaza. This treatment of the site creates a kind of pause amid the dense commercial towers and links the procession of green spaces extending from City Hall Park to the churchyard of St. Paul’s, through the WTC Transportation Hub plaza to the gardens of the Memorial and Battery Park along the Hudson. The ‘Oculus’ is comprised of steel ribs and glass arrayed in a large elliptical shape. The ribs extend to create two canopies over the north and south portions of the plaza.

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The rafters spring from two 350 ft arches flanking the project’s central axis. Between the arches, a 330 ft operable skylight frames a slice of the New York sky, and opens on temperate days as well as annually on September 11. Although suggestive of motifs from many traditions (the Byzantine mandorla, the wings of cherubim above the Ark of the Covenant, or the sheltering wings on Egyptian canopic urns), the form may be summed up, according to Santiago Calatrava, by the image of a bird released from a child’s hands. This Oculus allows natural daylight to flood into the WTC Transportation Hub; filtering down through all levels eventually to the PATH train platform, approximately 60 ft below the street. At night, the illuminated building will serve as a lantern in its neighborhood. Santiago Calatrava speaks of light as a structural element in the WTC Transportation Hub, saying that the building is supported by ‘columns of light.’

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Santiago Calatrava’s nearly complete World Trade Center Transportation Hub is set to open this year, the “glorious” birdlike structure boasts a 355-foot-long operable “Oculus” – a “slice of the New York sky – that floods the hub’s interior with natural light, all the way down 60-feet below street level to the PATH train platform. Its the world’s most expensive transit hub right now.

City of Arts and Sciences

Santiago Calatrava’s City of Arts and Sciences has taken a starring role in Tomorrowland, Disney’s latest blockbuster. Located in the former riverbed of the Turia in Valencia, Spain, the City of Arts and Sciences comprises a cinema (L’Hemisfèric), a landscaped walk and sculpture garden (L’Umbracle), the Príncipe Felipe Science Museum, the largest aquarium in Europe (L’Oceanográfico), and the renowned Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia. The complex was constructed in stages commencing in July 1996, and opened to the public in October 2005. Unique and strikingly futuristic, the iconic group of buildings caught the eye of Tomorrowland producer Jeffrey Chernov, who spoke effusively of the building at a recent press conference for the film.


“Calatrava’s architecture is just phenomenal and inventive and exciting. It’s very skeletal, like you’re looking at the vertebrae of a dinosaur or prehistoric fish,” said Chernov. “You walk into that place and you never want to leave. That’s the vibe we wanted for Tomorrowland.”


Florida Polytechnic Building Awarded “Best in Steel Construction” by AISC

In 2009, Santiago Calatrava was selected to create the master plan for the new Florida Polytechnic campus, and to design the first building to be constructed on the new campus. The university campus, through its formal arrangement and iconographic imagery, defines an institution that endeavors to give physical representation to man’s highest aspirations.

florida-polytechnic-sciencie-innovation-and-technology-campus-santiago-calatrava_23Florida Polytechnic University, Santiago Calatrava Architect

During the initial stages of master planning, the following principles were established:

Reflect the important role that the landscape, vegetation and water play in central Florida;
Create a strong formal order at a scale addressing the campus as a whole;
Create an iconic structure marking the campus within the larger local and regional context;
Recognize and conserve the natural landscape, open space and vegetation areas;
Locate vehicular traffic at the perimeter of the campus;
Create a variety of building types and public spaces;
Create a “pedestrian-friendly” campus environment.

The Master Plan, in response to the principles listed above, consists of a central lake, located on a northwest-southeast axis through the site. The lake affords dramatic views from within the campus and into the campus from offsite locations. The lake offers not only an opportunity for architectural expression, but it is also the primary storm water retention, as well as storage vessel for site irrigation. This ecologically sensitive response to the environment is a valuable polytechnic educational tool. The Innovation, Science and Technology Building, rising above the natural canopy of live oak trees, is located at the northwest head of the central lake. The building will be an iconic symbol of the university; visible from Interstate 4 and Polk Parkway, as well as from the campus entry, which is located south of the central lake. To the greatest possible extent, the campus plan proposes to conserve the existing topography and tree canopies. An elliptical vehicular ring road, lined by tall palms, segregates vehicular traffic from the core of the campus and allows conservation of the existing vegetative buffer between it and Interstate 4 and Polk Parkway. Parking facilities are located along the ring road, and only emergency vehicles are permitted within the central campus core. Inside the ring road, pedestrian walkways and paths, lined by smaller trees, are oriented parallel to and perpendicular to the central campus axis to form a circulation grid. Administrative, academic, residential, and other support facilities are placed within this grid around the central lake and complete the campus core. All classrooms, offices and dorm rooms are within a 10 minute walk of each other.

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American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) presented its Innovation Design in Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel Awards program. Recognizing exemplary work in steel for both its architectural and structural merits, the AISC awarded Santiago Calatrava’s Innovation, Science, and Technology (IST) building at Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland, Florida with the national award in the $15 million to $75 million category.


Inspirational quotes by Santiago Calatrava

Santiago Calatrava

“You have to have endurance in this profession. You start a project as a young person and then at the end you are another person. You are ready to go for your passion.”

“There was a wish to get something exceptional, … I also wanted to deliver something technically unique.”

“I have tried to get close to the frontier between architecture and sculpture and to understand architecture as an art.”

“I am always searching for more light and space.”

“The most touching thing that anyone can say to me is that I have done something beautiful for the community.”

“He taught readers that they deserve beauty and meaning and must demand it in their cities. He taught me, and many architects, that we must answer this demand and never stop challenging ourselves.”

“I wanted to do a very slender building, and a very transparent one.”

“It’s very atmospheric. It’s not a building that is a severe statement in the skyline. We need the height; otherwise, the building almost disappears because it is so slender.”

“This is an opportunity to make something extremely practical and logical, which at the same time tries to inspire the imagination in a way that can happen only here, in New York Harbor.”

“I am very happy that people have understood our desire to develop this design beyond the ideas we first presented. Now we have taken everything a step further, in order to connect this building to the city around it.”

“On a practical level, the design creates a new direct link to Governors Island for both tourists and Island workers from both Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. The system is very light, using only three supports, none of which stands in the water, so the shipping channels are left completely open.”


Talent is something that grows within you

As pointed above Santiago Calatrava was born in 1951 in Valencia Spain. Calatrava grew up in an established family involved in the primary industry of that coastal metropolis: agricultural exports. The family’s hillside home was imposing, with large rooms that Calatrava later named as an inspiration for his attraction to major projects and big spaces. Though Calatrava’s father was oriented toward commercial activities at work, he loved art and took his son to see Spain’s greatest museum, the Prado in Madrid. Calatrava started to show an interest in sculpture and drawing, and by the time he was eight he had enrolled in art classes in Valencia.

Santiago Calatrava

Calatrava’s family had suffered during the political upheavals of the 1930s in Spain, and they saw an international future as their son’s best chance. When he was 13, they took advantage of a liberalization of travel restrictions imposed by dictator Francisco Franco in order to send him to Paris under a student exchange program. He later took classes in Switzerland and learned German on his way to eventual fluency in seven languages.

At this point Calatrava still hoped to become an artist. He made plans to attend art school in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts), but he arrived in mid-1968, with the student protests of that year at their height, and found that his classes had been cancelled. Back in Valencia, he decided to attend the Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura (Technical University of Architecture).

The artsy soul was always there whitin Calatrava and he most certainly followed it for the rest of his life and he still is letting it all go with some incredible projects that he is developing right now.


The creator’s choice

“The Doha Bay Crossing in Qatar is the biggest project I’ve ever done, making a bay across the Doha in a circular way and liberating the Corniche [the city’s waterfront promenade]. We are building four major bridges [including pedestrian and vehicle bridges] and 12 kilometers [about 7.5 miles] of tunnels. They are not private, but they help enormously private developers. This is part of my job. In the case of Doha Bay Crossing, we are linking the old city and the new city and the airport. It will take only seven or eight minutes for people to get from the airport to the hotel and so on. [Doha Bay Crossing is part of Qatar’s preparation for the 2022 World Cup].”





Santiago Calatrava - Ciudad de las Artes y de las Ciencias

“City of Arts and Sciences”, Valencia – Spain