Santiago Calavatra—Genius Architect, Engineer and Artist
January 13, 2017
The extraordinary vision of Santiago Calavatra has made an impact on architectural designs all over the world. What began as a passion for art and other endeavors—sculpture, drawing, even engineering—served as a foundation for his architectural artistry and continues to influence his work. and vision are loftier than his clients'. Always striving for more—creating buildings, bridges and transportation hubs that transform the spaces they inhabit.
Born in 1951 in Spain, Calavatra went on to design many iconic architectural structures. He became a sculptor and a student of painting and drawing at the precocious age of eight. Enrolled at the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain, he got his degree in architecture in 1974, followed a PhD degree in Civil Engineering.
In 1983, his design was chosen for the Stadelhofen Railway Station in Zurich and this catapulted his career into the limelight. His work: natural shapes combined with the austerity of modern designs. His unique vision grew out of this. Bridges and transportation hubs have been his trademarks. Simple, elegant silhouettes that reflect natural forms.
The World Trade Center Hub, while constructed of his signature whits
steel, is inspired by a bird's wings taking flight from a child's hands. A beautiful blend of the natural and industrial, a technical marvel that is a contrast in kind. This is typical of the commercial architecture he creates,
Calavatra got his start designing bridges and is known worldwide for the unique structures and spans—using his engineering skills to push the boundaries of architecture. The human body, natural forms and shapes—these all influence the buildings and bridges envisioned by Calavatra. His signature neo-futuristic style is remarkable. From the Bilbao airport terminal to the Peace Pavilion and Bridge in Calgary, Santiago Calavatra has brought a new vision to any project he has created. Another key element of his designs include movable elements, notably in the "Bird in Flight" oculus at the WTC hub, with its skylight that opens to commemorate the anniversary of the tragedy.
Another is the Quadracci Pavilion, an addition to Eero Saarinen's Milwaukee Art Museum. For this project, he was inspired by the "dramatic, original building by Eero Saarinen, the topography of the city" and Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie-style architecture. When Calabrata's name was linked to the project, donations poured in, making the small renovation morph into something much more significant.
Calavatra is intensely conscious of the environment, heritage and landscape where his structures reside. As he has said," Brazil's magical ambiance radiates through Rio de Janeiro's rich past and cultural heritage, the vast forests, beautiful landscapes and most of all the spirit of the people.” His structures are symbiotically mixed with the architecture and natural setting around them.
Calavatra believes that all arts combine together to create an architectural vision that stands out amid a modern landscape. This vision and perfectionism have sometimes put him at odds with his clients. Frequently over-budget, his creations have always stunned the architectural world—like any true artist, he places importance on his designs and schedules in some cases were put by the wayside. The end product is always the ultimate goal, influenced by his perfectionism. His aesthetic emulates sleek modern forms that mimic soaring organic shapes.