Architect and sculptor Santiago Calatrava was born in Valencia, Spain, in 1951. He earned a degree in architecture and then in civil engineering, intrigued by the mathematics behind historic architecture. Early in his career, Calatrava worked as an engineer and began to enter architectural 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 next year, Calatrava designed and built a bridge for the Olympic Games in Barcelona; this was the beginning of a series of bridge projects that established his international reputation.
In the mid-1980s, Calatrava began to be hired for large-scale public projects and opened offices for his company in Zurich, Paris. and valence. During this period, he also began to exhibit his abstract sculptures in museums and galleries. calatrava regularly straddles the lines between art and architecture; The buildings of him are often called sculptural, while the sculptures and paintings of him are like sketches of buildings.
Calatrava is known for his flowing and curved buildings. he uses steel, concrete and new computer models to create compositions that seem both natural and structurally impossible. if “form follows function” was a rallying cry of modern architecture, calatrava’s postmodern structures turn this maxim on its head. his designs suggest stylized natural objects: waves, wings, or sun-bleached skeletons, with rows of white concrete ribs curved in distorted parabolic arcs. the true purpose of these dramatic contours is often aesthetic rather than structural.
the milwaukee art museum expansion was calatrava’s first project in the united states. feeling insecure about working in the usa USA, he actually withdrew from the selection process in 1994, only to be talked into coming back. Today, Calatrava has completed dozens of buildings and bridges around the world, with many more in the works. His theatrical and uplifting designs are immediately recognizable and often his buildings, like the Quadracci Pavilion, seem poised to blow away in the breeze.
calatrava at the milwaukee museum of art
after completing the quadracci pavilion, santiago calatrava spoke about how he designed the addition and sought to integrate the museum into the surrounding urban and natural landscapes. the excerpts below are from his speech at the inauguration of the quadracci pavilion in October 2001.
“For me, the Milwaukee Art Museum expansion project was an opportunity to help people make the most of an extraordinary situation.
the design did not result from a sketch. it arose from a close collaboration with the clients… who really wanted from me the best architecture that I could do. his ambition was to create something exceptional for his community.
instead of just adding something to the existing buildings, I also wanted to add something to the lakefront. therefore, I have worked to infuse the building with a certain sensitivity to the culture of the lake: the boats, the sails, and the ever-changing landscape.
The extension, as such, is a kind of pavilion, transparent and light, which contrasts with the massive and compact Saarinen building. extending from the quadracci pavilion, like an outstretched arm towards the city, is a bridge.
In addition to being a link to the city, the bridge is part of a composition. its inclined mast conveys a sense of direction, of movement, which is picked up by the roof, the cables, and the canopies that extend to each side. these strong lines culminate in the burke brise soleil, which translates its dynamism into real movement.
I hope that… we have not designed a building, but a part of the city.”