Santiago Calatrava’s Biology in Architecture

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Biology in Architecture

Sanago Calatrava

Hannah OConnor

Survey of Architectural History ARC1720 – Secon 1741

Word Count: 3041

Biology in Architecture

Sanago Calatrava

Hannah OConnor

Survey of Architectural History ARC1720 – Secon 1741

Word Count: 3041

Biology in Architecture

Sanago Calatrava

Hannah OConnor

Survey of Architectural History ARC1720 – Secon 1741

Word Count: 3041

Biology in Architecture

Sanago Calatrava

Hannah OConnor

Survey of Architectural History ARC1720 – Secon 1741

Word Count: 3041

Biology in Architecture

Sanago Calatrava

Hannah OConnor

Survey of Architectural History ARC1720 – Secon 1741

Word Count: 3041Architecture is usually seen as a structure, building, or object. In reality, architecture is so much more. It embodies qualities that are unique with respect to the artist’s style, including design, materials, and location. With the right materials and creativity, architecture has the power to inspire. Biology is the study of living things, their structures and function. Its name comes from the Greek words “bios” (life) and “logos” (study)[1] . Most buildings are alive with people, therefore the connection between architecture and biology only seems natural. Santiago Calatrava is a Spanish born architect that is known to be inspired by biology and nature with his designing aspects. His inspiration has ranged from modeling structures after human shapes to incorporating aspects of nature and movement into his designs. Calatrava masterfully uses his education in civil engineering along with his artistic creativity to design innovative structures that defy gravity. Additionally, his inspiration from biology has allowed him to produce unique structures resembling the natural movement of the human body. The result is a unique connection of two things that would normally not be related. Calatrava has become a world-famous architect for bridging the beauty of nature with his architecture that often simulates movement. Santiago Calatrava’s blend of engineering and biology is the perfect combination to make architecture beautiful and unique.

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Santiago Calatrava was born in Benimamet, a town outside of Valencia, Spain in 1951[2]. His first passion began with art. Calatrava took night classes when he was a young boy at the Arts and Crafts School in Valencia [3]. After a couple trips to Paris, he returned to Valencia and studied architecture at the Superior Technical School of Architecture[4]. The very first hint of Santiago’s future as an architect appeared when he and his friends built a suspended swimming pool for the school. The pool’s unique design and transparency allowed observers below to watch as people swam. Following graduate school, Calatrava studied Urbanism; the study of how people in urban regions interact with the architecture and buildings around them. Looking to further his education, he moved to Zurich, Switzerland in 1974 where he earned a doctoral degree in Civil Engineering from the Eidgenossiche Technische Hochschule (Federal Institute of Technology) by 1979[5]. In 1981, Santiago married Robertina Marangoni, a law student who he met while studying in Zurich. Together, they had four children, three sons and a daughter . She has played an important role in managing Santiago’s successful business enterprise.

As soon as Calatrava completed his doctorate, he opened his own office in Zurich, Switzerland. Shortly after, Calatrava designed an exposition hall, a factory, a library, and two bridges, but none were built. Although his early years were quite a struggle, his award of the Stadelhofen Railway Station in Zurich became the start of his very successful career. This project is believed by many to have shined the light on the study of Spanish Civil Engineering[6]. Following this award, he began to receive commissions for industrial and transportation structures of increasingly greater size. Many of his first projects were bridges and train stations throughout Europe. As his business grew, he solidified his reputation as an architect with engineering knowledge. In 1989 he opened an office in Paris, and another in Valencia in 1991[7]. Calatrava’s European bridges gained recognition in the United States and he began to receive commissions for work. The first completed United States project was the Milwaukee Art Museum 2001, described as a massive pair of wings, that span the length of a Boeing 747. His success in Europe has now spanned the globe.

Calatrava’s extensive education and hard work ethic have contributed to his world-wide success. Due to his dedication to his work, Calatrava has gained international recognition and fame. People can see his face and his architecture all over the world. He has extraordinary pieces ranging from the United States of America to Europe to the Middle East. His designs have won numerous international awards, including the Gold Medal from the Institute of Structural Engineers in London, the Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts from Spain’s Ministry of Culture, the Leonardo Di Vinci Medal from the Societe pour la Formation des Ingenierurs, the Gold medal of Architecture from L’Academie d’Architecture in Paris, the Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects, the Middle East Architect Award 2016, Lifetime Achievement Award 2016, and Design of the Year 2016[8]. His success can be attributed to both his education in architecture as well as engineering. What gets him notices is his artistic style.

Calatrava is famous for his unique architectural style and being known as the innovator of modern architecture [9]. He has become a master at combining multiple art forms, that normally would not go together, to create a uniform piece of work. His style is often symbolic, with meaning, and recognized around the world. Calatrava masterfully captures a sense of movement in his structures that are meant to be stationary objects. He accomplishes this due to his extensive knowledge in civil engineering. Having studied Urbanism, Calatrava has a deep understanding on where to put different pieces of architecture. He placed his bridges in the right spots, using the water’s reflection to add an extra element of style to these structures. With his love for art and architecture, Calatrava helped innovate the use of different materials to create a style that was distinctly Neo-Futuristic[10]. Calatrava was not afraid of a challenge either. He often chose to use concrete with his gracefully curved structures. He was featured on the June 2004 cover of Concrete Construction magazine for his Tenerife concert hall in the Canary Islands[11]. The all-concrete building defies gravity as it resembles an ocean’s crashing waves. His famous architectural style all started with a young boy’s passion for arts and crafts.

  Starting at a young age, Calatrava showed an interest in art and his passion developed when he began taking classes at an arts and crafts night school. While he ultimately chose a path of architecture, art became the foundation for his creativity. All of his projects began as a sketch intended to capture his vision on paper. He then applies his vast knowledge of engineering and architecture to bring his vision into reality. For Calatrava, the vision and artistic creativity in his projects precede the architecture and engineering elements needed to complete the structure. In other words, the art comes first. The Montijuic Communications Tower in Barcelona is one of Calatrava’s most iconic artistic pieces. This concrete tower was planned for the 1992 Olympics. The landmark not only exemplifies artistic beauty, it is a functioning one-hundred-and-thirty-six meters high sundial that also held the Olympic Flame. This structure is a true testament to Calatrava’s ability to combine art and function. By getting involved with art so early into his life, Calatrava was able to venture into new types of art using biology and engineering. Combining all of these elements has helped Calatrava stand out from other architects and has brought him a multitude of success.

Finding a connection between the human body and architecture has always come easy to Calatrava. He is fascinated with similarity between architecture and the human body – and makes a point to incorporate biology into his work. The mechanics of the human skeleton, particularly the spine and rib cage, inspired his first big project – the train station in Zurich. Construction of the Stadelhofen Station began in 1983 but wasn’t finished being built until 1990 due to major setbacks in the intricate rib cage design (cite). The Turning Torso in Malmo, Sweden, is a fifty-four-story high skyscraper with a ninety-degree twist inspired by the human spine[12]. Calatrava believes “what architecture does is what a coat does for our body, it wraps us.”[13]  Part of Calatrava’s work at the Milwaukee Art Museum resembles wings that open up to the sky and a planetarium he worked on in Valencia, Spain started with the idea of the human eyeball. It is clear to see that having an educational background in both architecture and civil engineering blended with a passion for biology has given Calatrava’s projects a very unique edge.

Calatrava is known for incorporating nature with his architecture. This was one of his goals while adding on to the Milwaukee Art Museum. He wanted the new structure to overlook and flow well with the natural features of Lake Michigan. A spectacular feature of the museum is the large sunscreen roof that opens and closes in order to control sunlight. Calatrava also used nature as a consideration when building the Olympic Sports Complex in Athens, Greece. Utilizing nature is a very important element in his design. Calatrava finds inspiration in modeling his structure from the belief that nature can be a teacher, and that the lessons that we can learn from it are numerous. Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland, Florida, is a Calatrava creation that conserves the natural landscape. It is also a moving and functional piece of art. The roof adjusts with the direction of the sun in order to provide maximum shade and reduce the building’s solar intake. With nature being such an important aspect to Calatrava’s work, it is not surprising that the majority of his architecture looks like a natural phenomenon.

In addition to art and nature, another important factor to Calatrava’s architectural style is movement. He incorporates movement into his designs by taking advantage of his engineering skills. Some of his structures resemble movement. For example, the Reggio Emilia AV Mediopadana high-speed railway station in Reggio Emilia, Italy[14]. When looking at the train station you can immediately tell what design Calatrava was desiring. The steel beams are arranged to look like a wave in the ocean and it gives the train station a clean, seamless motion that is pleasing to the eye. Other structures resemble the wings of birds or the waves of an ocean. For example, the World Trade Center complex has the look of a bird extending its wings. The Auditorio de Tenerife is an auditorium in Spain that looks like a giant wave is going over it. Both buildings resemble movement, while having extraordinary engineering behind them. Calatrava also has structures with true movement – The Milwaukee Art Museum’s movable sunscreen and the Florida Polytechnic University’s moving roof. Without having a background in engineering, successfully infusing movement, physically and figuratively, would be extremely difficult. These structural pieces that defy gravity and create movement make Calatrava’s architecture so interesting and so well known.

The design aspect is just one part of Calatrava’s creativity. The materials use on a project have a very important role in his creations. One medium that Calatrava is known to use is concrete. Learning from his early art days, concrete can be molded and sculpted. Furthermore, concrete can be used on-site and create the curves and movements Calatrava is so famous for. One of his most famous is the Opera House in Santa Cruiz de Tenerife. The look was inspired by the island’s geology[15]. The building has a double layer of concrete casings that provide acoustics for the concert hall. Calatrava used concrete with broken ceramic tiles that complement each other throughout the day as the sun sprinkles sunlight on it. The look of concrete is clean, simple and elegant, without the expensive price tag. The finished look is a piece of art.

 While Calatrava is well-known and has won numerous awards for his buildings, he got his start with bridges and trains. During the span of his career, Calatrava has designed over fifty bridges around the world. Bridges are a very important part of our history, as they are integral in transportation. As you can imagine, Calatrava incorporates eye-catching aesthetics with all of the bridges he has created – using designs that complement the surrounding areas while offering beauty and function. For example, the Zubizuri Bridge in Bilbao, Spain. It is fittingly referred to as the ‘White Bridge” as it is primarily made with concrete and white steel and features a curved glass walkway with a large arch and cable system. This bridge exemplifies Calatrava’s passion for incorporating nature with architecture. Adding to his portfolio, Calatrava also designed seven train stations in his career[16], including his first in Stadelhofen, Zurich and the World Trade Center Transportation Hub in New York City. With all of his train projects, Calatrava aims to design a project that not only works around the city, but also becomes a piece of the city that people will want to visit.

There are so many special projects that Calatrava has worked on throughout his career. A couple of my favorites are the Oculus above the World Trade Center in New York City and the Tenerife Concert Hall in the Canary Islands. The Oculus appears to look like a dove and is symbolic of what happened on 911 years ago. It features Calatrava’s signature white curved ribs of steel, and a spine seen in negative[17]. The engineering used in this project has been compared to “interior tailoring on a couture gown: you can’t see how it works, but it looks gorgeous, and it costs a fortune to produce.[18]” In the Canary Islands, Calatrava has created an all-concrete masterpiece that is as unique as it is stunning. This was one project where he didn’t follow that form follows function and states that the “spectacular arc is the end not the means.[19]

A project that is very special to Calatrava is the Athens Olympic Sports Complex. While he was not the original designer, in 2001 he was commissioned to design the roof of the Athens Olympic Stadium, located in Marousi, just north of Athens, Greece. Calatrava presented a proposal to redesign both the Olympic Stadium and the Veolodrome. The 2004 Winter Olympics were held here shortly after the renovation by Calatrava. His design for the roof became the celebrated trademark of the 2004 Olympics and a symbolic entry into the twenty-first century[20]. The return of the Paralympic Games in Athens was a major success, all contributed to Calatrava’s architecture[21]. This is due in part to how he tailored his design to accommodate visitors.

In true Calatrava fashion, he also integrated biology into this project. All of the structures aesthetically and took full advantage of the surrounding landscape. Calatrava ultimately reorganized over one-hundred acres, including a roof for the Olympic Stadium, a roof for the Velodome, entrances for the plazas, the Agora complex, a Plaza of the Nations, and an Olympic cauldron[22]. Calatrava’s passion for biology is sprinkled throughout the Olympic Sports Complex. The roofs of the Olympic Stadium and Velodome resemble wings with large sweeping arches and a cable system that appear to again defy gravity. Calatrava used his landmark arch theme throughout to resemble an athlete throwing a javelin or a runner jumping. One can interpret this as a representation of the human body’s movement. The structures are also white, and as one would anticipate, are breathtaking amidst the natural landscape. This was a significant project for Calatrava. Not only was it a successful design project, it brought the Olympics back to where the games all started.

Similar to the Athens project is the Milwaukee Art Museum. This is another project where Calatrava was neither the original designer or the one chosen to complete the entire project. In 2001, Calatrava was commissioned to design the Quadracci Pavilion[23]. The Pavilion is an addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum. The structure features a moveable sunscreen, similar to the one used at the Florida Polytechnic University. The screens that open and close are designed to resemble wings, adding that little bit of nature and biology blended with Calatrava’s architectural and engineering skills. Additionally, the structure is in the traditional Calatrava color of white.

We can all learn from Calatrava and his contribution to architecture. His structures tell us that you can marry art with architecture; engineering with architecture; and even biology with architecture. He shows us that you can combine all of them at the same time, while incorporating movement. His artistic creativity challenges what the rational mind assumes and pushes designers to think beyond the expected and to look rethink the unexpected. The legacy that Calatrava leaves behind is a portfolio of structures that have changed the way people view the mechanics of architecture. The knowledge Calatrava has in art, architecture and engineering, combined with his passion for biology and nature give him an edge over other designers. The countless awards that he has won worldwide are a testimony to his success and shows other architects that boundaries can be pushed. What I respect the most is how he uses his knowledge with the intent to benefit the people and natural surroundings. He has a flair for creating architecture that gives a sense of the heritage of a particular time.[24]

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Calatrava has become world-known for his creative, unique structures that are not only functional, but beautiful as well. His success did not come overnight though. He had many struggles and fought for what he believed in. He has used his skill and talent to push the boundary of traditional. It is no surprise that Calatrava has become a world-famous architect for his designs. He has mastered the art of bridging engineering, biology, nature and beauty with architectural form and function. According to Calatrava, “the study of architecture combines all the art forms into one.[25]” Santiago Calatrava, in my opinion, has successful blended engineering and biology and will be remembered for making architecture beautiful. He has discovered the beauty in architecture.

Bibliography


[1] Cape Institute for Architecture. “What Is Architecture?” http://cifa.org.za/architecture/what-is-archtecture/

[2]  Ritika Kapoor, “Santiago Calatrava Documentary,” YouTube, 11:11, June 03, 2011.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pM9mZypB9x0

[3] Ibid

[4] Ritika Kapoor, “Santiago Calatrava Documentary,” YouTube, 11:11, June 03, 2011.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pM9mZypB9x0

[5] Ibid

[6] Spanish Art, “XXI Century: Santiago Calatrava (1951),” https://www.spanish-art.org/spanish-architecture-calatrava.html.

[7] Ritika Kapoor, “Santiago Calatrava Documentary,” YouTube, 11:11, June 03, 2011.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pM9mZypB9x0

[8] Awards – Santiago Calatrava – Architects & Engineers, “Awards,”

https://calatrava.com/awards.html.

[9] Learn Spanish, “Santiago Calatrava,”

https://www.enforex.com/culture/santiago-calatrava.html

[10] Eric Allen, “14 Stunning Structures by Santiago Calatrava”, Architectural Digest, March 05, 2016,

https://www.architecturaldigest.com/gallery/santiago-calatrava-architecture/all

[11] “Concrete Construction”, December 05, 2006,

https://www.concreteconstruction.net/business/contractors/the-ten-most-influential-people-in-the-concrete-industry_o

[12] Santiago Calatrava, Public Buildings, ed. Antony Tischhauser and Stanislaus van Moos (Basel, Switserland   Birkhouser, 1998), 387-392.

[13] Villarreal, Ignacio. “World-renowned Artist Architect Santiago Calatrava Opens Exhibition at Marlborough Gallery.” http://artdaily.com/news/69664/World-renowned-artist-architect-Santiago-Calatrava-opens-exhibition-at-Marlborough-Gallery#.W8FSQi_Mz-Y.

[14] Mark Byrnes and CityLab, “What Train Stations Mean to Cities, According to Santiago Calatrava,” CityLab, March 07, 2016,

https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2016/03/santiago-calatrava-world-trade-center-transportation-hub/472116/.

[15] “Concrete Construction”, December 05, 2006,

https://www.concreteconstruction.net/business/contractors/the-ten-most-influential-people-in-the-concrete-industry_o

[16] Mark Byrnes and CityLab, “What Train Stations Mean to Cities, According to Santiago Calatrava,” CityLab, March 07, 2016,

https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2016/03/santiago-calatrava-world-trade-center-transportation-hub/472116/.

[17] Andrea DenHoed, “The Transformation of Calatrava’s Oculus on the Anniversary of 9/11,” The New Yorker, September 13, 2017,

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/the-transformation-of-calatravas-oculus-on-the-anniversary-of-911.

[18] Ibid

[19] FRED A. BERNSTEIN, “ARCHITECTURE; It’s a Bird. It’s a Helmet. It’s an Eyelid.,” The New York Times, October 26, 2003,

https://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/26/arts/architecture-it-s-a-bird-it-s-a-helmet-it-s-an-eyelid.html.

[20] Jilly Traganou, “Shades of Blue: Debating Greek Identity Through Santiago Calatrava’s Design for the Athens Olympic Stadium,” Academia 2016.

[21] Olympic Sports Complex / Athens (Overview) – Santiago Calatrava – Architects & Engineers “Olympic Sports Complex,”,

https://calatrava.com/projects/olympic-sports-complex-athens.html.

[22] Olympic Sports Complex / Athens (Overview) – Santiago Calatrava – Architects & Engineers “Olympic Sports Complex,”,

https://calatrava.com/projects/olympic-sports-complex-athens.html.

[23] Cheryl Kent, Santiago Calatrava: Milwaukee Art Museum, Quadracci Pavillion, ed. Robert Sharp, First ed. (New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 2005), 39-46.

[24] Ritika Kapoor, “Santiago Calatrava Documentary,” YouTube, 11:11, June 03, 2011.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pM9mZypB9x0

[25] Ritika Kapoor, “Santiago Calatrava Documentary,” YouTube, 11:11, June 03, 2011.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pM9mZypB9x0

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