I have spent a lot of time in design over the years, and I’m sharing a few of my favourite Architects this month. One of my favourites is Santiago Calatrava. Santiago Calatrava Valls is a Spanish/Swiss architect, structural engineer, sculptor and painter. Calatrava is known for his gleaming white, sky-high designs. He has captivated the globe with soaring structural feats since he began designing, but has also become the Bain of several clients in the failures of key parts of many of his recent design(s). Having said that, Calatrava has an artistic sensibility that plays out in his compositions of sculpting and painting, and informs his architectural creations on a large scale. He creates his structures with an architectural flair based heavily in his structural engineering background.
Unlike Tadao Ando (last week’s architect), Calatrava trained as a architect, structural engineer, sculptor and painter, in Spain. He’s known for designing railway stations, stadiums, and museums, whose sculptural forms that are sculptural in aesthetic, often resemble living organisms; and bridges supported by single leaning pylons. During his architecture school, he was fascinated by the concept of gravity and convinced that it was necessary to begin his work with simple forms. I feel his telling life attitude was influenced by Swiss engineer Robert Maillart, who said “with an adequate combination of force and mass, you can create emotion”.
I find much of his work dreamlike, futuristic and fluid, as it sometimes seems to hover from the sky, or be supported in an unseen skyhook. Calitrava’s work can also be quite inspiring and captivating. Looking through his later work especially, has a strong sense of refined space or distinguished shape often evoking a sense of life, energy or even at times a soul. Calatrava is a master, but also comes across arrogant and colourfully extravagant. For a fun article describing his colourful and pretentious side, see this article.