Santiago Calatrava Valls was born in Valencia, Spain in 1951. He graduated in Architecture from the Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Valencia in 1974. He then studied Civil Engineering and graduated with a doctorate in Technical Science from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich, in 1979.
He established his own architectural and engineering practice in Zürich in 1981. In his early years he focused on buildings and some railway stations (Stadelhofen station, Zurich, 1983). He also developed his skills through sculpture and project models, which he exhibits.
He became internationally known from 1987, following completion of the Bach de Roda and the Felipe 11 bridges in Barcelona along with the Barcelona Olympic Communications Tower. In 1988 he was commissioned to design one of the entrance bridges for EXPO 92 in Seville, namely, the Alamillo Bridge. Some of the other entrance bridges were designed by renowned engineers such as Fritz Leonhardt, Juan José Arenas de Pablo, Leonardo Fernández Troyano and Julio Martínez Calzón. The final outcome fully justified his inclusion in such company.
In 1994 he completed the TGV railway station at Lyon, France and the Alameda Bridge, Valencia, in 1995. The Milwaukee Museum, Wisconsin, USA was completed in 1996 and the Campo Volantin Footbridge in Bilbao, Spain in 1997. His designs for a large number of his structures are based on the human form. This is seen in the roof structure of the Lyon Station. It has further evolved with the twisting torso building in Malmo, Sweden (2005) and the proposed Chicago Spire in Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Calatrava’s focus when building bridges has been on the use of arch and cables. He has developed the arc, varying in height to optimise its carrying capacity while presenting an aesthetic view to the eye. He has evolved the use of cables in roof designs but particularly in the building of pedestrian bridges. In 2009 he completed an opening cable stayed bridge in Dublin, Samuel Beckett Bridge where the principle of the arch and cables are integrated into the design.
Since 2005 he has been mainly working in the USA with bridge designs in Dallas, Texas (the Trinity Bridges), the Sundial Pedestrian Bridge, California and the Peace Bridge in Calgary, Canada. He was commissioned to design the proposed tallest building in the USA, the Chicago Spire in Chicago, but this was cancelled in 2010. His design was chosen for the 800,000 square feet, World Trade Center Transportation Hub, which is currently under construction in Lower Manhattan, New York.
Calatrava has received many awards, he is a prolific creator of ideas, optimizes the use of materials and integrates the disciplines of Architecture and Engineering particularly in infrastructure.