Santiago Calatrava

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Santiago Calatrava Valls
Calatrava IMG 2489.jpg
Santiago Calatrava in 1999
Born (1951-07-28) 28 July 1951 (age 62)
Benimàmet, Valencia, Spain
Nationality Spanish
Education Polytechnic University of Valencia
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
Engineering career
Engineering discipline Structural engineer, Architect, Sculptor
Institution memberships Institution of Structural Engineers
Practice name Santiago Calatrava
Significant projects Athens Olympic Sports Complex
Auditorio de Tenerife
Alamillo bridge
Chords Bridge
Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències
Liège-Guillemins railway station
Significant awards AIA Gold Medal
IStructE Gold Medal
Eugene McDermott Award
Prince of Asturias Award
Auguste Perret Prize

Santiago Calatrava Valls (Valencian pronunciation: [santiˈaɣo kalaˈtɾava ˈvaʎs], born 28 July 1951) is a Spanish architect, sculptor and structural engineer whose principal office is in Zürich, Switzerland. He has offices in Zürich, Paris and in New York City, where he now resides.

Early life and education[edit]

Calatrava was born in Benimàmet, an old municipality now integrated as an urban part of Valencia, Spain, where he took an undergraduate architecture degree at the Polytechnic University of Valencia.[1] There he completed independent projects with fellow students, publishing two books on the vernacular architecture of Valencia and Ibiza. In 1975 he enrolled in the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, Switzerland for graduate work in civil engineering. In 1981, after completing his doctoral thesis, "On the Foldability of Space Frames", he started his architecture and engineering practice.


The Milwaukee Art Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

Calatrava's early career was largely dedicated to bridges and railway stations, with designs that elevated the status of civil engineering projects to new heights. His Montjuic Communications Tower in Barcelona, Spain (1991) in the heart of the 1992 Olympics site, as well as the Allen Lambert Galleria in Toronto, Canada (1992), were important works and turning points in his career, leading to a wide range of commissions. The Quadracci Pavilion (2001) of the Milwaukee Art Museum was his first building in the United States. Calatrava's entry into high-rise design began with an innovative 54-story-high twisting tower called Turning Torso (2005), located in Malmö, Sweden.

Calatrava has designed a futuristic train station, the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, at the rebuilt World Trade Center in New York City. It is expected to open in 2015, six years behind schedule, at a cost of $4 billion, twice the original budget.[2]

Calatrava has defined his style as bridging the division between structural engineering and architecture. In his projects, he claims to continue a tradition of Spanish modernist engineering that included Félix Candela, Antonio Gaudí, and Rafael Guastavino, with a very personal style that derives from numerous studies of the human body and the natural world. Architecture critics, however, see his work as a continuation of the expressionism of Eero Saarinen.[citation needed]

On 10 December 2011, he was appointed a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture for a five year renewable term by Pope Benedict XVI.[3]

In May 2012, Calatrava was accused of 'bleeding Valencia dry'.[2] Calatrava has charged some €100m (£81m) to the Valencia government, according to the website, established by the leftwing Esquerra Unida party. The party says it has managed to see copies of bills paid by the People's party regional government to the architect, who is now based in Zurich and therefore out of the immediate reach of Spanish courts.[4]

In March 2013, a supreme Italian court started a procedure for a hearing against Calatrava and three engineers for overpricing a bridge in Venice.[5]

Recent projects[edit]

Puente del Alamillo at night, made for the Expo 92, Seville, (1992)

Trinity River Bridges[edit]

Calatrava's work includes three bridges that will eventually span the Trinity River in Dallas, Texas. The first bridge, the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, named after donor Margaret Hunt Hill, was open for traffic in March 2012. If the remaining bridges are completed, Dallas will join the Dutch county of Haarlemmermeer in having three Calatrava bridges.

Peace Bridge[edit]

Calatrava's design for the Peace Bridge, a 130 metres (430 ft) pedestrian bridge to span the Bow River in downtown Calgary, Alberta, Canada, was estimated to cost approximately $24.5 million. The project was approved by city council in early January 2009 and was scheduled for completion in fall 2010. Public disclosure of Peace Bridge plans was made on 28 July 2009, and it was described as a sleek, elegant contribution to downtown Calgary.

However, there was an uproar from Calgarians, since there was a bridge very similar to Calatrava's design built in Toronto, at a much lesser cost. The design model showed a sleek, tubular, single-span red-and-white trestle, offering separate pathways for cyclists and pedestrians. The bridge was expected to serve up to 5,000[6] pedestrians and cyclists daily. After considerable delays due to construction quality problems, the bridge opened in March 2012.[7]

Florida Polytechnic University[edit]

On 16 June 2009, it was announced that Calatrava would be designing the first building of the new University of South Florida Polytechnic campus in Lakeland, Florida. This will be his first work in the southeastern United States. The university is now Florida Polytechnic University scheduled to open in August 2014. As of 2013, construction of the campus is well under way on Interstate 4 between Tampa and Orlando.

Calatrava as sculptor[edit]

Calatrava is also a sculptor and painter, claiming that the practice of architecture combines all the arts into one. In 2003, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City held an exhibition of his artistic and architectural work, entitled Santiago Calatrava: Sculpture Into Architecture. Exhibitions of his work have also taken place in Germany, England, Spain, Italy and elsewhere.

Notable works[edit]

Atrium of Brookfield Place, Toronto, Canada (1992)
L'Umbracle at the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències in Valencia, Spain (1996)
Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències, Valencia, Spain (1996)
Gare do Oriente, Lisbon, Portugal (1998)
Calatrava bridge in Petah Tikva, Israel
Medio Padana TAV Station, Reggio Emilia, Italy
Turning Torso in Malmö, Sweden (2005)
Chords Bridge for pedestrians and train in Jerusalem, Israel (2008)
Technion Obelisk in Haifa, Israel
Ciudad Ciencias (Science City)


Under construction/proposed[edit]

Calatrava's St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church is a redesign for the church destroyed by the collapse of Two World Trade Center during the September 11 attacks.

Calatrava has also submitted designs for a number of notable projects that were eventually awarded to other designers, including the Reichstag in Berlin and the East London River Crossing.

Unbuilt projects[edit]

  • 80 South Street was a residential skyscraper, located at that address in New York City's financial district facing the East River. It was composed of ten townhouses in the shape of cubes stacked on top of one another. The townhouses move up a main beam and follow a staggered ladder-like pattern, providing each townhouse with its own roof. The "townhouse in the sky" design was supposed to attract a high-profile clientele willing to pay a hefty US$30 million for each cube. As of 2008, this project had been canceled; the Manhattan real estate market had gone soft, and none of the ten multimillion-dollar townhouses had been sold.
  • Chicago Spire was a now-canceled skyscraper in Chicago. Originally commissioned by Chicagoan Christopher Carley, the building site for the project was purchased by Irish developer Garrett Kelleher in July 2006 when Carley's financing plans fell through. Construction of the building was to begin in August 2007, for intended completion in 2011. The Chicago Spire would have been the tallest building in North America. The project was canceled in early 2010.[10]
  • Collserola communications tower in Barcelona (1991). A tower shaped like a big white spaceship was proposed, but Norman Foster ultimately designed the tower.
  • A bridge in Toronto to the Toronto Island Airport. Locals did not support the airport.
  • A campus building for Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. His design was dropped for a less expensive design.[11]
  • New cathedral for the Diocese of Oakland, California, USA. Preliminary design dropped in favor of that by local architect Craig Hartman (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, San Francisco).
  • New bridge across Cávado River, Barcelos, Portugal. It was dropped due to lack of funds.
  • Substitute bridge (Wettstein Bridge) across Rhine River, Basel, Switzerland. It did not pass the cantonal referendum. A less expensive bridge was built instead.
  • 80 South Street, 835-foot-tall (255 m) stack of 10 condominium units on New York City's East River, starting at $27 Million each.[12]


Calatrava has received numerous recognitions. In 1988, he was awarded with the Fazlur Khan International Fellowship by the SOM Foundation.[13] In 1990, he received the "Médaille d'Argent de la Recherche et de la Technique", in Paris. In 1992 he received the prestigious Gold Medal from the Institution of Structural Engineers. In 1993, the Museum of Modern Art in New York held a major exhibition of his work called "Structure and Expression". In 1998 he was elected to become a member of "Les Arts et Lettres", in Paris. In 2005 he received the Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

In 2005, Calatrava was awarded the Eugene McDermott Award by the Council for the Arts of MIT. The award is among the most esteemed arts awards in the US.[14]

He is also a Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council.[15]



Calatrava's projects have often been completed late and well over budget,[17] resulting several times in real or threatened litigation against him. The World Trade Center Transportation Hub in New York is expected to be complete in 2015, six years behind schedule, for a cost of $4 billion, twice what was expected. The City of Arts and Sciences complex in his native Valencia ultimately cost around €900 million, almost triple what was originally budgeted, over a 13-year period. Ignacio Blanco, an opposition member of the Valencian provincial parliament for United Left, estimates that the city, financially strapped as a result of country's ongoing economic crisis and unwise spending, still owes €700 million. Blanco has started a website,,[18] meaning "Calatrava rips you off" in Catalan, highlighting the architect's propensity for these cost and schedule overruns.[2]

Some of his work has additionally been criticized for impracticality. The metal arches he puts over landscaped gardens, critics say, are beautiful but grow too hot in the sun for vines to grow around them.[2] In Bilbao, the bridge's glass tiles are prone to break and get slippery in the local weather,[19] leading The New York Times to dub it "The Bridge of Broken Legs", due to the many accidents that occurred. The compensation payments which followed finally compelled the local administration to add anti-slip treads to its decking, covering the lighting from underneath that was the bridge's. In the City of Arts and Sciences' opera house, 150 seats have partially obstructed views. "[R]ather than searching for functionality or customer satisfaction, he aims for singularity," complains the head of Bilbao's architectural association. "[He] is above and beyond the client." Blanco points to the minimal design notes the architect provides in comparison to his peers.[2]

Other buildings have been built without essential features. Bilbao Airport lacks an arrivals hall, so a glass wall had to be built to shelter passengers waiting on the street after clearing customs and picking up their bags. Valencia's science museum was originally missing fire escapes or elevators to provide accessibility; they were later added by Calatrava at public expense. "He was paid even when repairing his own mistakes," Blanco complains.[2]

Some Calatrava projects have shown visible problems within a few years of completion. It was inevitable, another Valencia architect wrote, that the mosaic Calatrava put on the wall of the City of Arts and Sciences' opera house as a tribute to Antonio Gaudi would buckle as the steel it was affixed to heated up. The city is contemplating a lawsuit against Calatrava and the builders over the wrinkles that have appeared. A councilor in the Dutch city of Haarlemmermeer called for the city to sue Calatrava over the three bridges he designed over its main canal, which not only cost double their budget but have required far more maintenance than originally anticipated.[2]

A bridge over the Grand Canal in Venice has all the problems of Calatrava's projects highlighted by his critics. Starting in 1996, it took 12 years to build and went through numerous structural changes, because of the mechanical instability of the structure and the excessive weight of the bridge,[20] which would cause the banks of the canal to fail. In 10 years the project was inspected by more than eight consultants and the cost had risen to three times the original expectations.[21] The finished bridge has been criticized for its impractical design; it has many steps embedded in its relatively steep pavement, which makes it uncomfortable to walk on, especially for the elderly. Moreover, it does not have a ramp, so that it cannot be used by wheelchair users. The city has sued Calatrava over both the cost overruns on the original construction and the excessive maintenance costs since then.[2]

The Domecq Group has sued Calatrava and the building company Ferrovial to pay for the repairs in the cover of the 2001 Ysios winery in Alavan Rioja, Spain.[22] The aluminium and cedar cover leaks water, causing humidity inside that is detrimental to wine production. Elsewhere in Spain, in 2013 Calatrava and his associates were ordered to pay the city of Oviedo €3.3 million for damages incurred when a convention center collapsed while under construction.[2] The sentence has since been confirmed on appeal, though slightly reduced to just under €3 million.[23]

"My goal is always to create something exceptional that enhances cities and enriches the lives of the people who live and work in them," Calatrava told the Times in response to its article about his projects' many difficulties. He has claimed that his fees for his Valencia work were justified since they included his work as a project manager over 20 years' time, but did not address specific criticisms of its many defects. In an interview with Architectural Record he dismissed criticism there by Blanco and others as politically motivated. Other cities, like Dublin and Dallas, had been satisfied with his work and commissioned projects from him repeatedly, he noted. His supporters pointed out that Valencia's government has spent foolishly and extravagantly on other architects' work as well, such as its new airport which remains underused.[2]

He has also tried shutting up his underfunded Valencian critics by suing them for large monetary damages.[24]


A special exhibition was presented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in March 2006.[25][26]

Personal life[edit]

Calatrava's nephew Álex Calatrava is a professional tennis player. Two of Calatrava's sons have completed or are in the process of completing advanced degrees in Engineering from the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University in New York City. His other son has just finished law school at Columbia University.


  1. ^ "Biography: Santiago Calatrava". Southern Methodist University News. 7 October 2002. Retrieved 12 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Daley, Suzanne (13 September 2013). "A Star Architect Leaves Some Clients Fuming". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 September 2013. 
  4. ^ Giles Tremlett (8 May 2012). "Architect Santiago Calatrava accused of 'bleeding Valencia dry'". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 November 2013. 
  5. ^ Ferran Bono (12 March 2013). "No pagaremos por los desperfectos de Calatrava en el Palau de les Arts" (in Spanish). El País. Retrieved 13 November 2013. 
  6. ^ "The Peace Bridge hits the mark". City of Calgary. Retrieved 2013-05-29. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Sculpture by Santiago Calatrava to be unveiled at SMU's Meadows Museum". Southern Methodist University News. 7 October 2002. Retrieved 13 November 2013. 
  9. ^ High-rise towers on stilts plan for Liffey – Irish Architectural News
  10. ^ Calatrava Dances onto a New Stage - Business Week
  11. ^ Graphic of the Ryerson Centre for Computing and Engineering, Ryerson Centre for Computing and Engineering, Toronto, Canada, Photo, Stock Image, Photograph |
  12. ^ Proposed: 80 South Street - Lower Manhattan
  13. ^ "SOM Foundation Fellows Archive". 
  14. ^ Established to honor Eugene McDermott, founder of Texas Instruments and long-time friend and benefactor to MIT, the award was created by the Council for the Arts at MIT in 1974, and further endowed by Eugene's wife, Margaret. Since its inception, the Council has bestowed the award upon 31 individuals producing creative work in the performing, visual and media arts, as well as authors, art historians and patrons of the arts.
  15. ^ "Senior Fellows - Design Futures Council". Design Intelligence. Retrieved 13 November 2013. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ – Sólo texto – Calatrava y sus desmanes
  18. ^
  19. ^ Entre losetas y y arquitectos 'estrellas', El Correo, 24 February 2007.
  20. ^ Roberto Bianchini (7 May 2007). "Troppo pesante quel ponte per Venezia" (in Italian). La Repubblica. Retrieved 13 November 2013. 
  21. ^ [1],L'Espresso, 8 May 2007.
  22. ^ Los "patinazos" de Calatrava, Descubrir el arte, 17 April 2013.
  23. ^ "La Audiencia Provincial de Oviedo condena a Santiago Calatrava" (in Spanish). El Pais. 7 February 2014. Retrieved 7 February 2014. 
  24. ^ "Calatrava demanda a EUPV por denigrarle en la web ‘calatravatelaclava’" (in Spanish). El Pais. 30 Janunary 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  25. ^ The Metropolitan Museum of Art – Special Exhibitions: Santiago Calatrava: Sculpture Into Architecture
  26. ^ Images from the March 2006 Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]