A conversation about iconic architecture is incomplete if Santiago Calatrava is not mentioned. After decades of practice, Santiago Calatrava has forced his name into the fray.

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His engineering and architectural background has helped him come up with structurally sound works of art that capture the imagination. 

Transport hubs, bridges, large scale buildings, and railway stations are all a part of his illustrious portfolio. Though his engineering background has guided him to take up projects of a certain typology, nonetheless a few projects do stand out.

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1. BODEGAS YSIOS WINERY (2001)

The Bodegas Ysios Winery is an eye-catching and unorthodox building that seems to be in the middle of nowhere. The site is situated, on the outskirts of LaGuardia, Spain, where the terrain is uneven and earthy.

BODEGAS YSIOS WINERY (2001) - Sheet1
Bodegas Ysios Winery ©Calatrava

The client, The Bodegas and Bebidas Group, needed an exclusive winery for their wine, la Rioja Alavesa. Santiago Calatrava was faced with the challenge of reinventing the look and feel of a winery, while maintaining the winemaking process. 

The concept for the Winery has been extracted from the site as an abstraction of the bumpy land. The façade follows a sinusoidal flow much-like the landscape around it. The façade is composed of two long concrete walls, 26 feet apart with intermittent cedar wood slats.

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BODEGAS YSIOS WINERY (2001) - Sheet2
Aerial view of the Winery ©Calatrava

These two walls are, in turn, abruptly curved to resemble the terrain too. The result is a volume-centric plan that, in turn, creates a dynamic with the space outside the structure. 

Consequently, the slender building was longitudinal to accommodate the various stages of winemaking.

What’s more, is that the roof has aluminium panels that shine brightly due to multiple reflections caused by the sun’s rays. These multiple reflections caused by the concave and convex faces introduce a kinetic element that changes as the day progresses. The contrast between the industrial look of the aluminium panels and the rest of the crude site further accentuates Santiago Calatrava’s extravagant winery.

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2. SHADOW MACHINE (1992)

Santiago Calatrava has a reputation for sculpting enormous structures to his will while making sure the structure itself is sound. However, the Shadow Machine in New York, USA is a small-scale structural marvel that was made predominantly as a sculpture, rather than an utilitarian construction.

SHADOW MACHINE (1992)
Shadow Machine ©MoMA

This collector’s piece was commissioned by a private client in Switzerland. Conceptually, this was an extension of Calatrava’s earlier project, the Swissbau Concrete Pavilion in Basel. The Shadow Machine was a mechanized version, that can be considered, as an evolution of the pavilion.

The Shadow Machine has 12 precast concrete fingers that are cantilevered on one side, giving a sense of weightlessness. The reality is far from that, as the fingers weigh a total of 600kg, and are 8 meters long. The wall-mounted structure holding them in position weighs thirty tons while consisting of a mechanized system. This system embedded in the base moves the fingers methodically, creating a variation of shadows for people to come and admire.

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3. MONTJUIC COMMUNICATIONS TOWER (1992)

The Montjuic CommunicationsTower was developed for a company, Telefonica, as a part of a competition. The idea was to craft a world-class tower that would leave people awestruck.

MONTJUIC COMMUNICATIONS TOWER (1992)
MontjuicCommunications Tower ©Pinterest

Santiago Calatrava had to design a structure with pre-set guidelines. Nonetheless, Santiago Calatrava worked within the set parameters to craft the tower in a formidable form that was iconic and elegant.

A three-pronged base rests on a brick base that was stipulated as a necessity, by the company. The semi-circular entrance resembles an eye as the mechanical system opens and closes like an eyelid.

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The tower is 136 meters high and resembles an athlete bending to receive a medal. The system worked perfectly as the structure was built for the Olympics.

4. MUSIC SCHOOL CONCERT ROOM, ST. GALLEN (1986)

The Music School Concert room is probably Santiago Calatrava’s most docile project. From the scale of the project, it is easy to deduce that the whole endeavour was inexpensive.

MUSIC SCHOOL CONCERT ROOM, ST. GALLEN (1986) - Sheet1
Concert Hall ©Calatrava

Built-in 1986, this project covered a modest 96 sqm within a building.  The concert room was built, with a combination of two adjoining rooms. The common wall between the two rooms was partially demolished and replaced with a decorative arch of sorts that seamlessly combined the rooms.

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MUSIC SCHOOL CONCERT ROOM, ST. GALLEN (1986) - Sheet2
View of room divider ©Calatrava

5. BUCHEN HOUSING ESTATE (1996)

Housing projects are generally monotonous and bland owing to the theme set by the surrounding town. Under the banner of Santiago Calatrava, this was simply not possible.

BUCHEN HOUSING ESTATE (1996)
Housing ©Calatrava

The Buchen Housing Estate was a project handed to Santiago Calatrava byRemer Real Estate, after his success with the Swissbau Pavilion in Basel. 

Precast concrete members were used for making houses while occupying a small footprint. Their overall aesthetic was provided by the whitewashed concrete that was in trend during the 20th century.

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The rooms above had a larger footprint since a part of the structure was cantilevered. The ground floor served more as an intermediate space between the outside and the top floor.

The basement parking had glass bricks used in the roofing of the basement.  These bricks formed the axial footpaths between two buildings. The parking then connected to the basement of the houses, where auxiliary functions like laundry took place.

Author

Kunal is a charismatic individual, with a passion for food, travel and of course writing. His thirst for new experiences has helped him develop diverse portfolio of talents. He has worked with NGO’s pertaining to animals, children, and rural development while working as an architect for large corporations.

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