Santiago Calatrava is Spain’s most renowned living architect and some would say by far the most its most controversial. Santiago was born in 1958 in Benimamet, Valencia and received his degree in architecture from the polytechnic at the University of Valencia. Santiago has offices around the world and currently lives in Zurich.
At the time of writing, Calatrava is working in New York on the World Trade Centre’s Neo-Futuristic PATH railway station, unsurprisingly, also attracting controversy. Neo-Futuristic design is an idealistic concept concerned with a better future.
Calatrava’s World Trade Centre project is now 2 billion USD over the original budget and is planned to open 6 years later than first thought, although stated to be sometime in 2015. His early career was very much dedicated to bridges and railway stations. My own personal favourite of these is Calatrava’s Gare do Oriente in Lisbon, which opened in 1998. The station handles 75 million passengers per year, so it as is as busy as the famous Grand Central in New York city.
The Peace Bridge, Calgary
Calatrava returned to his roots with an elegant Double Helix, tubular steel structure named the Peace Bridge. The bridge is located in Calgary, crosses the Bow River and is designed to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists in providing a safe link from downtown Calgary and the suburb of Sunny Side. Some 6000 pedestrians per day use the bridge which is fantastic as this was a very expensive bridge at 24 million USD or 114,000 USD per lineal meter.
Most of Calatrava’s designs are normally asymmetrical and colored white. This is where the Peace Bridge is different, it is a brightly colored structure, based on the red and white colors found in the Canadian national flag and the flag of Calgary. It still uses one of Calatrava’s favourite material, glass, which he used to form the roof. Others think the red is a tribute to the fall season and the white represents the winter snow. I think he just likes red.
The structure is deceptively simple but Calatrava found the project challenging in July 2009 he is quoted as saying in the Calgary Herald,
“Of the 14 bridges I have built, there's not one that follows this principle, not one that is done with this purity. And technically, it is a demanding bridge."
Part of the design brief from the City no doubt increased the bridge’s costs. They did not want any piers or support structures to enter the river and they did not want any high support system in place. The bridge had to be designed to last 75 years and to survive Calgary’s flood each spring.
The bridge is popular with pedestrians but a little resented, it was built in the midst of a recession and the order was placed to a Spanish fabrication company. The bridge does not appear to have entered the soul of the city. No-one can really point to why it is called the Peace Bridge. It was dedicated to Canadians serving their country in the name of peace but it is very hard to find out much more.
The bridge feels a little unloved, it has not been adopted as a symbol of the city unlike the Henderson Wave Bridge in Singapore or the Gateshead Millennium Bridge in the United Kingdom. If you look up things to do and see in Calgary, the bridge very rarely makes anyone’s list.
I know it is the easiest thing in the world to criticize but to me this bridge is a lost opportunity, it looks like a Chinese finger trap. It is just a pedestrian foot bridge.
Other Architecture Posts
Here we look at every kind of architecture, often including steel and other metals of course, current and historical usually by famous and influential architects but sometimes by names that are surprisingly lesser known.
The conviction of Rafael de La-Hoz Arderius and Gerardo Olivares to build a minimalist sculpture of steel, glass and travertine on an urban scale.
Robin Fisher explores this building, located at the gateway of Los Angeles' famous Museum Row, extensively renovated through the work of Kohn Pedersen Fox and A.Zahner.
Richard Storer-Adam reviews the design and construction of this 64-story skyscraper, built in the 1970’s with Cor-Ten steel, symbolising the triumph of the US Steel industry.
Richard Storer-Adam reviews the background and architecture of this iconic modernist glass and bronze tower by German-American architect Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe and American associate architect Philip Cortelyou Johnson.
Antonio Moll reviews the first work by the Dutch Office in the USA, 16 years after its opening, considering what is probably the most disrupting piece of architecture of the 21st Century.
Richard Storer-Adam dwells on the genesis of NYC’s most iconic skyscraper and ‘quintessential symbol’ of Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA named after the Flatiron district.
Other Design Posts
How our use of metals and finishing processes features in design today and since prehistoric times.
Considered the second most influential car of the 20th Century just after the Ford Model T the Mini is a British Pop-culture icon.
Richard Storer-Adam recounts the work of this influential industrial designer, famous for his work with Walt Disney Studios, through two of his favourite products created in the style of Streamline Moderne.
Richard Storer-Adam gives a brief history of two essential modern-day products - hypodermic needles and steel pipes - and the manufacturing technique that connects them.
Richard Storer-Adam gives a brief tutorial on Rose and Rose Gold watches, watch straps, lugs and integrated wrist bands including the Rolex Glidelock system in 904L stainless steel.
An appreciative and honest critique of this dramatic architectural work - Lola Adeokun shares her experiences and feelings whilst visiting Niemeyer’s museum of art in Rio de Janeiro.
Richard Storer-Adam gives an overview of the life of an iconic mid-century designer whose background as a blacksmith and empathy with metal fabrication played out in his work ranging from furniture, such as the famous Standard SP chair, to pre-fabricated buildings.