Contact: Victoria Winkelman or Kami Duncan
SMU Meadows School of the Arts
(214) 768-3785 or (214) 768-2788

October 7, 2002

BIOGRAPHY: SANTIAGO CALATRAVA

Architect, artist, and engineer Santiago Calatrava was born on July 28, 1951, in the town of Benimamet, near Valencia, Spain. His background was eclectic. Calatrava is an aristocratic name, passed down from a medieval order of knights; and Benimamet is a town largely populated by Jewish converts to Catholicism. The family on both sides was engaged in the agricultural export business, which gave them an international outlook that was rare during the Franco dictatorship.

Calatrava attended primary and secondary school in Valencia. From the age of eight, he also attended the Arts and Crafts School, where he began his formal instruction in drawing and painting. When he was thirteen, his family took advantage of the recent opening of the borders and sent him to Paris as an exchange student. He later traveled and studied in Switzerland as well. Upon completing high school in Valencia, he went to Paris with the intention of enrolling in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts; but after he arrived in June 1968, he found his plan was unworkable. He returned to Valencia and enrolled in the Escuela Tecnica Superior de Arquitectura, a relatively new institution, where he earned a degree in architecture and took a post-graduate course in urbanism. While at the school, he also undertook independent projects with a group of fellow students, bringing out two books on the vernacular architecture of Valencia and Ibiza.

Attracted by the mathematical rigor of certain great works of historic architecture, and feeling that his training in Valencia had given him no clear direction, Calatrava decided to pursue post-graduate studies in civil engineering and enrolled in 1975 at the ETH (Federal Institute of Technology) in Zurich. He received his Ph.D. there in 1979. It was during this period that he met and married his wife, who was a law student in Zurich.

After completing his studies, Calatrava took a position as an assistant at the ETH and began to accept small engineering commissions, such as designing the roof for a library or the balcony of a private residence. He also began to enter competitions, believing this was his most likely way to secure commissions. His first winning competition proposal, in 1983, was for the design and construction of Stadelhofen Railway Station in Zurich, the city in which he established his office.

In 1984, Calatrava won the competition to design and build the Bach de Roda Bridge, commissioned for the Olympic Games in Barcelona. This was the beginning of the bridge projects that established his international reputation. Among the other notable bridges that followed were the Alamillo Bridge and viaduct, commissioned for the World's Fair in Seville (1987-92), Lusitania Bridge in Merida (1988-91), Ondarroa Bridge in Ondarroa, Spain (1989-95), Campo Volantin Footbridge in Bilbao (1990-97), and Alameda Bridge and underground station in Valencia (1991-95). The attendant growth of his practice led him to establish a second office, in Paris, in 1989.

During this phase of his career, Calatrava won a reputation for designing other large-scale public projects as well. These included the BCE Place mall in Toronto (1987-92), the railway station for the Lyon-Satolas Airport (1989-94), Sondica Airport in Bilbao (1990-2000), Tenerife Opera House in the Canary Islands (1991-2001), the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, where he established his third office (1991 -- ongoing), and the Oriente Railway Station in Lisbon (1993-98, commissioned for Expo '98). He also won the design competition to complete the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City (1991), a project that has not been realized.

Exhibitions of Calatrava's work were first mounted in 1985, with a showing of nine sculptures at Jamileh Weber Gallery in Zurich. A new stage in recognition was marked by two solo exhibitions: a retrospective at the Royal Institute of British Architects, London, in 1992, and the exhibition Structure and Expression at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1993. The latter exhibition included an installation in the museum's Sculpture Garden of Shadow Machine, a large-scale sculpture with undulating concrete "fingers." The most complete exhibition of his work yet mounted was Santiago Calatrava: Artist, Architect, Engineer, presented at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, Italy, from October 2000 through January 2001. A similar but smaller exhibition, Poetics of Movement: The Architecture of Santiago Calatrava, was mounted in Dallas at the new Meadows Museum in 2001.

Among Calatrava's major projects that were recently inaugurated or are coming to completion are the Science Museum at the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia (November 2000); Sondica Airport in Bilbao (November 2000); Orléans Bridge in Orléans, France (November 2000); and his first building in the United States, the Milwaukee Art Museum, which opened to great acclaim in autumn 2001. The Tenerife Opera House is scheduled to open in 2002. The first phase of the Opera House of the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia is scheduled for an autumn 2003 inauguration.

Scheduling is now in progress for another major Calatrava commission in the United States, the new Roman Catholic Christ the Light Cathedral of Oakland, California. Other current projects in the U.S. include a terminal for the people-mover system at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport; an ensemble of bridges and parkway for the Trinity River, in the heart of Dallas; and a bridge and esplanade for the expansion of Grant Park, on the lakefront in Chicago.

Among the honors and awards given to Santiago Calatrava are the Gold Medal of the Institute of Structural Engineers, London; Honorary Fellowship in the Royal Institute of British Architects; honorary membership in the Union of German Architects; membership in the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Carlos, Valencia; the City of Toronto Urban Design Award; designation as a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum in Davos; the Creu Sant Jordi, Barcelona; the Gold Medal for Merit in the Fine Arts, Ministry of Culture, Granada; membership in Les Arts et Lettres, Paris; the Algur H. Meadows Award for Excellence in the Arts (Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University); and the Principe de Asturias Prize in Spain. He has received 11 doctoral honors throughout his career.


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