Santiago Calatrava is a Spanish architect, engineer and sculptor from Valencia who rose to international fame in the 1980s as an innovative architect of public buildings and bridges. He was awarded the prestigious Prince of Asturias Prize for Art in 1999 and the Spanish National Architecture Prize in 2005. However, in recent years his name has been associated with controversy over both the design and budgeting of his works both here and abroad.
Calatrava started his education as a painter and designer and in 1973 graduated in Architecture from the University of Valencia. After completing a Masters degree in Urban Planning he went to Zurich to complete his Doctorate degree in Civil Engineering.
His first work of international importance was the train station of Stadelhofen, Zurich in 1983. After working in many countries he returned to his home town in 1991 where he embarked on the huge City of Arts and Science (Ciudad de las Artes y de las Ciencias). However, he is best known for his distinctive sculptural bridges, often cantilevered or cable-stayed, including the Bac de Roda bridge in Barcelona, the Samuel Beckett and James Joyce bridges in Dublin, the Alamillo Bridge in Sevilla, the Jerusalem Chords Bridge, and the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in Dallas.
In 2003 he won the competition to design the transport interchange station at Ground Zero in New York, a work with dramatic symbolic imagery which has not yet come to fruition. Also in New York he has plans for both a Greek Orthodox and Episcopalian churches. A number of his more extravagant recent designs have been abandoned before commencement, or even during construction, for financial reasons, including a grand sports complex in Rome and the Chicago Spire, which would have been the tallest building in the United States, had it gone ahead.
In recent years Calatrava has been at the centre of controversy for exceeding proposed timing and budgets, the exorbitant maintenance costs of his works along with their structural faults and lack of practicality. These include a bridge with glass panels that frequently break, slippery floor surfaces and an auditorium without disabled access. He has been taken to court in Italy for serious problems related to his controversial bridge over the Grand Canal in Venice and has also lost cases against the Valencian region and the city of Oviedo for structural faults in his buildings.