CALATRAVA, Santiago

(1951- )
   The Spanish modernist architect Santiago Calatrava is best known for his ability to imbue his concrete structures with an organic plasticity that is both highly technical and beautiful. After receiving a degree in civil engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, Calatrava established an architectural firm in Zurich that has expanded to include firms in Paris and New York City. His earliest commissions consisted of bridges and train stations, but in 1991 his Montjuic Communications Tower, built in Barcelona for the 1992 Olympic Games, catapulted Calatrava to international fame and provided him with a prodigious number of commissions. The Communications Tower is characterized by a thin concrete pier that rises up from the ground at a slight angle and turns to join a Ushaped connection from which a separate concrete mast points upward to the sky.
   Calatrava's new exhibition space for the Milwaukee Art Museum, built in 2001 and called the Quadracci Pavilion, is a beautifully complex design of thin horizontal registers built up to enclose an exhibition space topped by a giant movable set of wings supported by steel cables. Called a brise soleil, this device can open and close to regulate the amount of sunlight emitted into the long, slanted roof windows. The overall appearance of the building is that of a large sail-boat, befitting its location near Lake Michigan. Calatrava's "Turning Torso," a 54-story marble skyscraper built in Malmö, Sweden, in 2001-2005, is a highly technical structure modeled on the serpentine twist of the human torso. It is designed as nine five-story cubes that each twist slightly to arrive at a 90-degree turn from the bottom cube to the top. Sets of square windows create a grid pattern on each of the exterior wall sections, and the entire structure is supported by an internal steel frame and white external steel bars. Calatrava continues to meld technical solutions with expressive aesthetics by crafting very organic, thin-shelled concrete shapes in his buildings. Currently, Calatrava is applying these design principles to his World Trade Center Transportation Hub in New York City.
   See also HIGH-TECH ARCHITECTURE.

Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts. . 2008.

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