Santiago Calatrava – The Architect Who Blends Art With Engineering

Santiago Calatrava is one of the world’s most celebrated architects. Born in Spain in 1951, he studied at his city of birth, Valencia, receiving diplomas in architecture and urbanism. Later he studied for a second degree in civil engineering in Zurich. As a child, Calatrava had always wanted to become an artist. These leanings have never left him throughout a very successful professional career.

The work of Swiss-French architect, Le Corbusier, an early architectural modernist, intrigued Calatrava. He realized he could combine his twin passions of art and architecture to produce memorable and stylish building designs. Calatrava was also inspired by Robert Maillart, a Swiss civil engineer. Maillart pioneered the use of reinforced concrete in his innovative arched and beamless bridges.

Calatrava has designed many bridges himself, using his own flamboyant style. One of his most famous is the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in Dallas, Texas, constructed in 2012. Visible from miles around, this stunning structure almost appears to defy gravity. Suspended from a massive steel arc over 400’ high, a cat’s cradle of 58 white cables supports the six-lane 686’ long concrete bridge deck.

Calatrava has always sought to elicit emotion from the basic dynamic principles of physics. And like Le Corbusier, he uses simple geometric shapes, for example, cubes, arranged in such a way to create stunning, ultramodern designs. Gravity is a concept he melds into his designs frequently. His structures are designed with strong, sweeping curves, reminiscent of a planet orbiting the Sun under the pull of gravity.

Nature underpins all Calatrava’s most celebrated works. Sometimes he uses aspects of human physiology. His Turning Torso, in Malmö, Sweden, is constructed with nine five-story apartment pentagons arranged on a steel support.  The ninth pentagon is angled at 90° to the first. The Turning Torso represents a twisting human spinal column, and is the first twisted skyscraper ever built.

Another example of Calatrava’s architectural connect with human physiology is his City of Arts and Sciences and Opera House. Built in Valencia, this science and leisure complex includes a central planetarium which resembles a giant human eye.

Other times, Calatrava’s aims are zoomorphic, as with the World Trade Center Path Rail Terminal in New York City, constructed after 9/11. Calatrava designed the new terminal using a spiritual phoenix-from-the-ashes theme. The central Oculus resembles a bird with outstretched wings about to take off. Like any great sculpture, the structure boasts majestic curves, but it also conveys movement and rhythm. Calatrava says he is always guided by nature when designing his monumental architectural works. He blends engineering with art, creating architecture which touches the soul. With their tilting columns and gravity-defying arches, his works symbolize freedom from conformism.

With offices in New York City, Zürich and Doha, Calatrava has designed groundbreaking works of architecture for clients all over the world. While his structures are praised for their aesthetics, they have also attracted controversy. Some of Calatrava’s projects have gone over-budget. Others, post-construction, have required remedial works.

Despite his critics, Calatrava remains a dominant creative force in modernist architecture. His sculptor’s instincts allow him to create mesmerizing, futuristic structures that are also majestic works of art.


 Wikipedia contributors. “Santiago Calatrava.Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 6 Jan. 2018. Web. 11 Jan. 2018.

Santiago Calatrava SPANISH ARCHITECT, written by: The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica

Spotlight: Santiago Calatrava, written by Eric Oh, July 28, 2017