Santiago Calatrava: the most famous works by the Spanish architect

Renowned, extremely popular, misunderstood, admired, discussed, unique: the Spanish architect now a naturalized Swiss citizen Santiago Calatrava is certainly one of the most famous architects of recent decades. His style is highly recognizable thanks to the grand yet light curved lines that characterise his works, from bridges to buildings, imitating nature. In all his works, Santiago Calatrava synthesizes architecture, painting and sculpture, designing structures that make a big impression.

The 10 most famous works by Santiago Calatrava

Here we will present the 10 most famous works by Santiago Calatrava, ranging through Spain, Switzerland, Italy, the United States, Brazil and Sweden, and including bridges, buildings and stations.

The City of Arts and Sciences – Valencia

The list of Santiago Calatrava’s most famous works simply has to start from Valencia, where he attended the School of Applied Art and later the School of Architecture. Built on the former river bed of the Turia river, the City of Arts and Sciences is made up of different elements and structures, creating an imposing harmony of materials, colours and shapes. In this case the project was designed by Calatrava together with Felix Candela, and it offers a fundamental example of organic architecture; the site includes the huge multifunctional complex of the Ágora, that stands 75 metres high and covers an elliptical area of 5,000 square metres, able to accommodate over 6,000 people.

The Library of the Institute of Law –  Zurich

After graduating in architecture, Calatrava enrolled at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich to obtain a second degree in civil engineering, and Zurich was where he began his architectural career. So Calatrava’s first small projects were in Switzerland; the initial projects were modest, but his later works here included some very significant projects, such as the extension of this Law Library in Zurich in the late 1980s: the result is a building condensed into a stack of 6 oval rings.

The Museu do Amanhã –  Rio de Janeiro

In 2015, Calatrava designed the Museum of Tomorrow in Brazil, a two-storey building with a panoramic view over the bay of Guanabara, with the exhibition structure seeming about to launch itself out into the open sea. One of the most stunning aspects is the museum’s unusual fan-shaped facade.

The Alamillo Bridge – Seville

One of Calatrava’s most famous bridges is definitely the Alamillo bridge, a cable-stayed bridge spanning the Guadalquivir river in Seville. Constructed in 1992 on the occasion of the Seville Expo, it takes the form of a bridge with a single support tower situated at one end of the bridge, providing the only counterweight for the 200-metre-long bridge. The original project envisaged the construction of a second symmetrical bridge as a mirror reflection, on the other side of the island. We should note that in 2004 Calatrava created a similar design for the Sundial bridge at Turtle Bay, California.

The World Trade Center Transportation Hub – New York

The World Trade Center Transportation Hub stands on the site of the station that was destroyed during the 9/11 attacks in 2001, and was opened in March 2016. Also referred to incorrectly as the Oculus, the structure is intended to symbolise the rebirth of New York and Manhattan. A key aspect of the work is the vaulted glass roof, the inspiration for which came from the Pantheon in Rome: at 50 metres high, it is supported by an imposing steel structure. From here, the rays of the sun ensure excellent natural illumination, perfectly completing the central hall that features a floor of Italian white marble.

The Turning Torso Skyscraper – Malmö

This 190-metre-tall residential tower block located in the south of Sweden is still the tallest building in the country today (at the time of its inauguration in 2005 it was the second tallest residential building in Europe). Aside from its height, the skyscraper is stunning for its spiral shape, constructed of steel, glass and reinforced concrete. And that’s not all; the tower also manages to twist around 90 degrees, thanks to the 9 rotatory cubes (each housing 5 storeys) that make up the building. From the top floor it is possible to see Copenhagen, since the building is located near the Øresund strait.

Le Vele – Reggio Emilia

Calatrava has also made his mark in Italy. While some of his projects have been unfortunate (the Calatrava Bridge in Venice and the Vela in Rome, for example), others have been successfully completed. Le Vele is the name often incorrectly used to refer to the three bridges that Calatrava designed in the area to the north of Reggio Emilia, on the A1 motorway. Here there is a central arch bridge and two side cable-stayed bridges. The central bridge has a span of over 220 metres, with a 50-metre-high arch; the two side bridges are structurally equal, and reach a height of 70 metres.

Reggio Emilia Station

Situated 4 kilometres from the city, this is the only intermediate station on the high speed train line between Milan and Bologna; it is part of the project for the renovation of the area north of Reggio Emilia, together with other projects, including the bridges described earlier. The station is distinctive for its futuristic design, with a 25.40-metre-long module consisting of 13 different steel portals that is repeated 25 times: the result is like a dynamic wave.

The Zubizuri Bridge – Bilbao

This is a pedestrian bridge, more specifically a suspended arch bridge that was inaugurated in 1997. Due to its unmistakeable design, it is now one of the symbols of the Basque city, along with the Guggenheim Museum, of course.

“Adán Martín” Auditorium – Tenerife

We conclude this list of the most famous works by Calatrava with another project in Spain, but this time on one of the country’s islands. In 1997, Calatrava completed the design for the futuristic “Adán Martín” Auditorium in Santa Cruz, Tenerife, famous for its two panoramic terraces overlooking the sea, for the dome and the amphitheatre-shaped main concert hall. The external shape of this large concrete structure evokes an ocean wave seemingly about to break onto the shore, rising up almost 60 metres into the air.