Controversial Spanish starchitect wins European Architecture Prize

Jessica Jones
Jessica Jones - [email protected]
Controversial Spanish starchitect wins European Architecture Prize

Santiago Calatrava has been announced as the 2015 winner of the European Prize for Architecture. The Local takes a look at some of his best work.


Santiago Calatrava, the Spanish neofuturist architect who rose from bridge builder to designing some of the world’s most iconic buildings has been made the 2015 laureate of the European Prize for Architecture. 

Calatrava, who is also a renowned painter, has defined his style as bridging the division between structural engineering and architecture.

But his career has not been without controversy: he has been forced to pay millions in compensation after eaves collapsed at the parliament building in the northern Spanish city of Oviedo and other projects have run over by years, costing millions more than expected. 

In his projects, he claims to continue a tradition of Spanish modernist engineering that included Félix Candela, Antonio Gaudí, and Rafael Guastavino, with a very personal style that derives from numerous studies of the human body and the natural world. 

Stadelhofen Station, Zurich, Switzerland (1983-1990)

Photo: gato-gato-gato/Flickr

One of Calatrava's earliest commissions also won him his first prize, the prestigious Brunel award. He designed the expansion of Zurich's Stadelhofen railway station, incorporating a third track and commercial arcade, as well as a canopied promenade. 

Montjuic Communications Tower, Barcelona, Spain (1991)

Photo: Vaidotas Miseikis/Flickr

The tower, at the heart of Barcleona’s Olympic Site for the 1992 games was "a turning point in his career" according to the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies, and The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design, who award the annual prize. 

The tower was built so Telefonica could broadcast live coverage of the Games, and depicts an athlete holding the Olympic Flame. The base of the tower is covered with trencadís, the mosaic technique made from broken tile shards made famous by Gaudí. 

Milwaukee Art Museum, USA (1994-2001)


Calatrava designed the Quadracci Pavilion, his first architectural design in the United States. The design features a brise soleil in the form of wings that opens and closes depending on the time of day and the weather. 

The New York Times Capsule (1999-2001)

Photo: Neil R/Flickr

Calatrava won the competition from The New York Times magazine to design a time capsule, which would be filled with objects documenting life on Earth during the 20th century and would be sealed until the year 3000. It was exhibited in the American Museum of Natural History before being filled. 

The Turning Torso, Malmö, Sweden (2005)

Photo: Alan Lam/Flickr

Calatrava's first foray into high rise design came in 2005, with the 54-storey Turning Torso in the Swedish city of Malmö. The residential building was a key part of the transformation programme of Malmö's Western Harbour, the area close to the Øresund Bridge, made famous in the television series The Bridge. 

The Turning Torso can be seen in several shots of the harbour area throughout the television series. 

City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia, Spain (2005-2009) 

Photo: FromTheNorth/Flickr

This cultural complex in Valencia features a science museum, IMAX cinema and an open-air aquarium, among many other attractions. It is the largest collection of Calatrava's work in the world, and also among his most controversial. Its original budget was €300million but ended up costing nearly three times as much, becoming a symbol of the overspend on public infrastructure projects that sent the nation into a spiral of debt.

Critics also criticized the complex for being riddled with mistakes. Ignacio Blanco, a local Valencia politician, told The New York Times that the opera house included 150 seats with obstructed views and the science museum was originally built without fire escapes or disabled access. 

The World Trade Centre Transportation Hub, New York (2003-) 

Theo's Little Bot/Wikimedia

Currently under construction, the World Trade Centre Transportation Hub will replace the train station that was destroyed during the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre. The complex is comprised of a large, open mezzanine under the National September 11 Memorial Plaza, connected to an above ground structure called the Oculus. 


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also