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Perhaps one of the most well-known architects of this century, the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava continues to inspire millions of architects and builders around the world. Celebrated for his dynamic and innovative architectural style, Calatrava is a talented architect, structural engineer and painter. The combination of these unique skillset has allowed him to produce some of the most iconic buildings in the world. With his structures, Calatrava shows us his innovative outlook on postmodern architecture through the choice of the materials, shapes, sustainable/natural elements and flexible designs.

As we approach Calatrava’s 70th birthday this July 28th, we aim to explore some of his most famous buildings and learn the key takeaways that architects, builders and remodelers can grasp from this renowned architect.

Auditorium, Santa Cruz, Tenerife (2003)

Situated by the water, the auditorium is a large concrete structure, whose shape evokes a crashing wave. In his many buildings, including this one, Calatrava employs the usage of white concrete and steel. The intrinsic nature of these materials makes them durable, and require minimal maintenance and repair. Despite using materials usually associated with industrial buildings, Calatrava is able to create shapes that evoke elegance and elasticity. These shapes are the result of careful engineering and planning.

World Trade Center Transportation Hub, USA (2004)

To replace the original Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) rail system that was destroyed on September 11, 2001, Calatrava designed the World Trade Center Transportation Hub. Like most of his celebrated buildings, he uses white concrete as the color. The usage of white comes not only from his memories of the whitewashed Mediterranean buildings of his childhood, but it also gives the structure airiness and lightness. Combined with the use of natural light and organic designs, his final building appears ethereal.

Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow), Brazil (2015)

Located in Rio de Janeiro, the science museum includes exhibits that encourage patrons to think about humanity and sustainability. This innate goal of Calatrava to be at one with nature can also be seen in the structure of the building itself. The building is able to operate using natural resources from the site itself: from the water that comes from the nearby bay, to the solar energy collected through solar panels and integrated through the wing of the roof. Each element was designed to be sustainable and use what nature already has to offer.

Photo Credit: ArchDaily


Santiago Calatrava sees architecture as an outlet to combine art, sustainability, beauty and innovation.

He designs contemporary buildings that are both modern and otherworldly, yet sustainable. The use of white in almost all his creations not only symbolizes the search for a clean design, but it also has other practical benefits related to climate and energy control. As white reflects the sunlight back into the atmosphere, using it for both interior and exterior design elements can help decrease the demand for energy consumption on heating and cooling systems. In addition to the choice of color, the materials are also a part of the sustainability journey Calatrava aspires to. Concrete in particular has a particular thermal stability and long-lasting properties can reduce the waste of materials, and create more energy-efficient buildings.

Calatrava also states that nature has been his guide, the one that inspires him to create buildings that reflects natural shapes and rhythms. But he looks at nature not only in the shapes, but in the single natural element. From the materials and colors, to adding trees, and rocks, he has always been fascinated by the intricacies of nature. Despite the colossal size of the structures, his buildings are able to assimilate the natural world around them. As architects, remodelers and builders all over the world continue to seek ways to blend architecture with nature, Calatrava’s famous buildings can be a source of inspiration.

As Calatrava looks at his high-tech architecture with the eye of an engineer as well, he aims to build with energy efficiency in mind. Most of his buildings, from commercial to residential, feature avant-garde designs that allow builders and residents to lower the energy consumption. From implementing daylighting techniques, to using solar panels that increase solar gain, to adding windows that can fill the space with natural light, to complementing concrete with the use of lightweight aluminum trellis or even moving roofs. All these engineered design elements have one goal in mind: create a structure that is both highly technical yet organic, extremely durable and yet lighter-than-air.


For more information on this legendary and award-winning architect, visit the Santiago Calatrava official page.

"I have tried to get close to the frontier between architecture and sculpture and to understand architecture as an art".

Santiago Calatrava

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