Emerging as a world renowned, neo-futuristic architect was neither through architecture nor a post-graduate degree in engineering alone, but it was Santiago Calatravas underlying artistic and sculptural sensibilities funneled through super imaginative thinking and discernment to foresee the uncommon.
Iconic architecture and Calatrava almost go hand in hand as he pioneers the design of multifarious civic centers worldwide. As a young architect Santiago Calatrava showed off his skills as a potential writer with publications like the architecture of Valencia and the island of Ibiza, in the initial years of his very flamboyant career. The architect also bedazzled the world with early samples of his creativities by way of a then first of its kind swimming pool in the rotunda of the school with an unobstructed view of the translucent suspended water body above.
Besides the mandatory architecture degree from the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain in 1974, his PhD degrees in structural engineering and technical science helped maneuver his interests to dynamic structure oriented architecture. The Spanish architect born on July 28, 1951 often assimilates his design flare for his overly large scaled projects with his palatial style home in Valencia. His winning zoomorphic design for the new train station at Zurich chanced to be in close vicinity of his newly founded architecture firm where he devised his many high-octane structures.
The skillfully wrought designs for over 50 modern bridges presiding in exposed white concrete and steel can be accredited to his scholastic backup and resilient visualization ability. First on the list is the Alamillo Bridge in Seville, Spain which is an asymmetrical suspension structure with a 200m long span raised to a height of around 150 m,suited for automobiles as well as pedestrians. The 250 m long bridge also features an elevated pedestrian walkway where one can view the harp shaped structure. Santiago Calatrava introduces the cantilevered spar cable bridge for the very first time in aversion to the regular cable stayed. Commemorating the launch of the Expo 92 for the city of Seville, the Alamillo Bridge received instantaneous recognition with its breakout asymmetrical design supported by a single pylon fastened by multiple pairs of cables-an extremely radical approach to suspension bridges.
Another twisting tale of the Turning Torso is Sweden's very own residential tower designed and rendered in true Calatrava style. Four years in the making, the structure has been drawn from the architects sculptural adaptation of a twisted human figure in unalloyed marble. The entwined visual mirage is in reality an inert composition of 9 pentagon shaped structures each encompassing 5 levels of habitable spaces. The skewed forms enclose a vertical shaft strengthened by an exterior steel support system. A gradual tapering of structures culminates in the apex which has a 90 degree left to right rotation with respects to the ground level. Despite the owners scuffle to sell a few apartments, the skyscraper still exuberates and is evidence of the design and construction extravaganza.
In the bosom of New York's new transport hub, where once laid the former World Trade Centre, Santiago Calatrava's Oculus is his rendition of a bird just released from a child's hand. The structure is a unified whole, of rows of curved steel ribs symmetrical about a central axis comprising of a winding and tapered glazed strip, following the structural concourse.
Each set of interconnected ribs cantilever outwards till they reach the top and recline towards the ground, completing a consolidated convex skeletal frame. Filling the spaces between the tapering network of ribs is translucent glass devoid of divisions, intended to bring in and let out enlivening views of both worlds.
Turning his unbeatable creative and technical know-hows towards the U.S., Calatrava received a commission to design an add-on structure to the Milwaukee Art Museum executed by Eero Saarinen way back in 1957. Though closely knit to the inherent museum structure, the extension is that of a dual facade sunshade pivoted on a central spine. The spine or the linear mast is inclined to an angle of 47 degrees that also coincides with that of the neighboring bridge mast. The mobility of the structure to let in light inside the building is a revelation when its facade wings open up to the sun.
Having a command over seven varied languages amongst his many talents, Santiago Calatrava was passionate about art and sculpture and was convinced of a definite career as an artist. Though architecture remained his first love, art and sculpture were not that far away as was his belief of the three, as one holistic entity. There have been several displays of his art inspired sculptures and vice versa at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as well as the Vatican Museum in Rome and many more future venues reinforcing his skill as a full-fledged sculptor.
The founder of many engineered marvels in particular his robust bridge ensembles and far flung structures, in the list of the leading top world architects induced by natural life forms, Santiago Calatrava brings diversity to the architects palette and opens up doors of endless possibilities in the world of design.
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