architect/artist: Santiago Calatrava
interview title: An Interview with Santiago Calatrava
interviews compilation no: T-35
interview format: Text
date: August, 2000
appeared in: Architectural Record
interviewer: Rober Ivy, editor-in-chief
photo by: Luca Vignelli
Calatrava's watercolor studies for the Milwaukee Museum of Art
An Interview with Santiago Calatrava
Santiago Calatrava fulfills an astonishing variety of roles in a specialized age: engineer, architect, sculptor, artist, builder, husband, father. The Spanish-born architect Calatrava and his wife Robertina live and work in an elegant white villa beside Zurich's Lake Zurichsee. On a spring day, he and Record editor-in-chief Robert Ivy met in a museum-like space on the residence's piano nobile, amid Calatrava's models and works in progress. Yellow light and Bach pierced the quietude, and when he spoke, Calatrava talked like an animated philosopher. The two then strolled to lunch beside the lake, a daily ritual for Calatrava.
ARCHITECTURAL RECORD: How do you formulate your ideas and develop them?
CALATRAVA: I try to emphasize the importance of place. The very first impression will come from the place. And I think it is fundamental to establish a link of feeling with this place.
Another relevant element that I would like to emphasize is the human context. So along with the topographical landscape, climatic environment and cultural landscape as a natural event, we also have the human climate. And with those elements I then begin a work of synthesis. I try to express ideas as best I can maybe by sketching on paper. At this point, the sketch is the first manifestation of the idea. In terms of a graphic language, it is just the result of an idea that comes from these factors combined.
I explained that in a very rational way, but things don't always happen so rationally. Sometimes you think this is the real shape for a place. But, when you say the real shape you also mean this is the shape that solves the problems or part of them, because you are also able through your experience or capacity for synthesis to understand that [problems can be solved] in this shape or in this volume. Understand?
This is most easily done in buildings that don't have very complex structures in terms of function. For example, if we are thinking of a bridge, which is a simple link, or a station. When I work on projects with more complex structures I subdivide the objects in two parts. One we could call a container, in which many things can happen, and another will be a single part. This technique, this method of approach, was used at the stations in Lyon and in Lisbon.
AR: In Lisbon?
CALATRAVA: And in Milwaukee also. You design a part of the building that is much more the "idea" part than the rest of the building, because the rest of the building in all its complexity needs a certain operational understanding of the development of the architecture, in terms of economics, in terms of the structure, in terms of modulation and division.
Very briefly, I don't believe very much in causality. As an architect I think you have to control your ideas and your shapes, which should emerge very much from a rational effort. For this it is necessary to create a theoretical background or a background of research. In my work this research is based on morphology, that I do through sculpture.
AR: Your research involves what we call art. Do you use sketching as a method of seeing?
CALATRAVA: The sketch is the instrument that helps me materialize the ideas at another level. And the most abstract way to do studies of morphology probably is sculpture. One draws the human body to understand the movement, the gesture. The place, the landscape, the human landscape, and topography are important for me. These will inspire or bring the essence [to a project]. Then, also the analysis of the functional program is important. You can channel all the impulses of free thinking, free feeling, shape, form, the natural [flow], and this goes from the sketches and the human body into the sculptures.
AR: You present a very different point of view from our contemporary model, which seems to be much more pragmatic, more programmed, as if we're trying to understand everything. At some point you're doing more than that--you are synthesizing, you are taking abstract ideas, and you're taking the programmatic rational ideas, and you're making something more than an object of pure reason.
Contemporary architecture often lacks this level of synthesis. You're bringing another, very human gift to design that isn't often done. Do you understand yourself as unusual in that sense?
CALATRAVA: I think the problem of architecture has been related to as a model of linguistics or a model of vocabularies. How to overcome the dryness of the pure function of analysis? Let's say, for example, my approach to the material part of architecture may be to remember the works of engineers of the twentieth century, or my approach to certain formal aspects may even recall my icons of architecture, like Gaudi. I project myself, I project my dreams, my knowledge, my personal work of research.
And if there is a value in my work, it has to be given to this research. Because this is what makes the work different from what it would be if I just reacted to the standards of belonging to a school. You cannot have the ambition as a single person to create a new school. I never had this ambition. So I went through the architecture trying to implement one, two, or three things, differently.
I have more than the paradigm of an architect, I have the paradigm of a painter. One example of a painter is Cezanne, who spent all his life just trying, he said, to make a little progress. I too am making little progressions. You understand what I mean. (Chuckles) I like his personality very much. He completed his life only painting outdoors, taking the natural as the real model. Many architects have built like that. I think Cezanne is so splendid and so [misunderstood]. Only a few people understood his work, which was so important for the next generation.
For myself, I venerate the human body, which I keep drawing and drawing and drawing. It's not the same as someone who wants to be a musician and who then exercises on harmony for years, do you know what I mean?
I think it is much easier to read the purity of form in drawing and in sculpture than to read it in the buildings themselves. [When I design] I pay respect to previous generations and I solve many of the problems in the styles that were solved before. I recognize that I want very much to get completely into new things, but it is almost impossible.
AR: You are both an architect and an engineer, but you're surprising: you've been talking about your "research," but in a sense, you mean your art. Art seems to be where these strands come together. How do you describe yourself?
CALATRAVA: I would like to emphasize that if you look back into history, you will see architecture has been considered as art. If you study the history of art, you see a pure understanding that architecture is art, [and I think this] needs to be strongly emphasized. Engineers and architects belong to the same [profession], but there is not a clear independence between the two.
So if we consider that architecture is art, and engineering as part of that or a branch of architecture, then engineering could ultimately be considered as art. But I want to go even further. We have lost the perspective of time.
AR: You are unusual in the way that you combine architecture and engineering, because contemporary life has tended to compartmentalize the various disciplines so much so that people seem to see things in segments.
CALATRAVA: This is an important question that I would also analyze by looking back into history. Effectively, in the twentieth century, we have inherited the encyclopedic heritage from the nineteenth and the late eighteenth centuries. We are all a consequence of the ideas of the French Revolution. In that system, they classify insects, just putting names on things, you know. The insects are so complex, really, but once you say this is a lepidoptera or this is a mosquito then you get wise. In fact, you have just created a grid that identifies your mental structure with a possible interpretation of nature. I think this is more or less obsolete now.
There is a beautiful example of this with the computer. You just know that when you press a button wondrous things happen on your screen. The effect of surprise is even more dematerialized, and because of that I think we are progressing to a more synthetic understanding of things.
This is the era of high technology and the computer, a [time where] certain people understand the [evolution of ideas] from their origins into global ideas. Maybe these people are called artists! I don't know, but it is new group emerging in which everything is classified.
In the world of museums, each painting hangs and represents an ism--Impressionism, Expressionism--but then you have a huge need for eclecticism. Picasso is unbelievable. He is just continuously evolving, getting out his sexual dreams or getting into his children's dreams--the young painter, the old painter--it's so beautiful. Making self-portraits of himself, like Rembrandt, and exploring the most intimate parts of his own personality.
AR: You've discussed intuition. Here's a very rational question. Do you use the computer?
CALATRAVA: Oh, yes.
AR: Do you use the computer yourself?
CALATRAVA: Myself, I don't use the computer. I draw everything by hand or I sketch.
AR: You do use your hand to sketch and to draw. What's the relationship between your mental process and the physical act of drawing?
CALATRAVA: In the end, the problem of an idea is not only having the idea, but bringing the clarity to express this idea. So the sketch as the translation of the idea has, in my eyes, by itself a very high value. When Matisse speaks about his drawing, sketches have a very intimate use for him. Sketches are usually done only between you and yourself; a sketch can clarify what has happened in your mind; so it is like a letter to oneself. I think this intimacy is very important. Sketches can become bigger or more detailed, until you solve a joint or a connection problem, or you [become able to] describe this or that.
Let's say for example a project exists in your mind and you want to do an esquisse [sketch] on the project. Then the sketch is a way to materialize the idea, like a photograph. It's like getting into a building and photographing the door, the portico, the roof. You can almost do, let's say, an endoscopy. You understand the word "endoscopy?" [It means] looking inside.
There is certainly in the very beginning a representation of the image that you are trying to capture in the sketch. There are many things that are in your brain and that you have to rediscover through the sketch.
I want to give you a more contemporary example of sketching. There are two filmmakers, one is Fellini and the other Akira Kurosawa, and both used to do sketches of their movie shots.
I think those people try to show through the sketches not only what they want, but also to show what they are envisioning, i.e., get an aesthetic feeling that [transcends] the power of words. Certain ideas are internal, but if two people look at a common object, they both get an aesthetic vibration that is not only pure design, but more than that--a message of emotion.
AR: What about your own work in relationship to this moment? How do you think it relates to the late twentieth century?
CALATRAVA: We should look at [the question] not from my point of view versus the object, but [from the point of view] of those who have generated the object. For example, the major part of my career [has been devoted to] public buildings, [which have mostly been designed] here in Europe. This shows you that at the end of the twentieth century, the public authority took a lot of responsibility as a promoter of architecture and the major part of this work emerged from competitions. We have done 120 competitions, something like that. [This demonstrates] how important the system of competitions is for this public authority, for promoting arts and also for someone like me. Competing with other architects immediately contextualizes the architecture, because you are competing with others who are contemporary.
The people who chose those projects very often look for the new idea. I am obsessed with the idea of getting just one or two steps ahead, but it doesn't always matter. Other people, sometimes when they judge, are looking for something completely new, you understand.
The fact that the buildings are public very much represents an ideological moment in which the public authorities take a part of the consciousness. The fact that the projects are chosen by competition shows you another particular [point of view]. Many of them are bridges, stations, museums or music buildings. All of them are related to the city.
I try very hard to bring dignity to forgotten buildings like bridges. I think the fifties, sixties and seventies have been very bad years for bridges, because they were all purely controlled by economics. Bringing a little bit of the dignity that existed before to bridges in the twentieth century was an important goal. You can say the same about railroad stations.
Another word [commonly] used especially at the end of in the twentieth century is culture. The word culture comes from the Latin cultus, and means a "cult to the gods," in this case "cult to the muses," since culture is accessible [not only to the gods but to everyone, so] we have public museums.
I love music and I've been lucky to build several [performing arts facilities]. On the other hand, even if I don't have a driving permit, I have still built several bridges.
If you look at the city of the twentieth century, we have these urban periphera. I'm not speaking about suburbia where wealthy people live in villas. Very often the peripheral areas can be terrible, very ugly. Bridges, concert halls, museums deserve [good design] because they help to restructure these areas and create new experiences. I am very proud of the [dimension of urban renewal] in my projects. Also, many of these projects increase mobility, such as airports, rail or bus stations/shelters, which is useful.
AR: Your buildings are very bold. Most of the buildings that we make lack this boldness--you make a statement when you make a building.
CALATRAVA: If you want to restructure [and invigorate the urban] periphera, where many of these buildings are built, [the building must be strong]. One of the first commissions I had was to build a bridge in Barcelona in a very poor neighborhood. The strength of the [design] helped to regenerate the area.
Many of these buildings [were designed and built] for very low cost. [This was accomplished through the use of modest] materials--simple materials like steel, concrete, glass, and sometimes a little bit of stone were utilized.
[Whatever materials I've used were] exposed. I could never imagine making a pillar in steel and cladding it in something else, such as stone, because it was unaffordable. You have to work very hard with material and economical resources and insist on the formal quality of the objects that you are producing and also the constructive efficiency.
So we invented things like rhythm. I repeated the same pillar in Lyon many times. You create a bridge, you know, and then you repeat it. And so I am [bringing] a certain daring [to the designs], trying to do spans that are unusual, because the other resource that is nonmaterial is the human resource.
AR: In talking about this sort of boldness, let's just say "forthrightness" in making these statements, it almost seems that you are exploring and describing the nature of the physical universe. It's almost as if you are, in an abstract way, diagramming the forces of nature. I mean you're drawing them to their most elemental and re-presenting them in a way that, well, doesn't exaggerate them because it shows them as they are, but it purifies them, maybe that's the word. It brought them into a very basic, fundamental understanding.
CALATRAVA: Many achievements of scientists were done through pure observation and the recreation of models, [which can provide] an answer about the physical phenomenon that we are observing. So, observing the natural, physical phenomena is also very modern, very twentieth century. The nineteenth century was perhaps a little different. But if you look at the Romantics, Caspar David Friedrich or those guys, you know the ones that draw themselves watching a landscape, the idea of observing the natural and trying to recreate models to [mimic] it--is [this] another kind of greed?
AR: (Laughing.) That's very interesting.
CALATRAVA: It's a more modern greed, do you understand what I mean? Because you create a scheme that gives, when you press here, you get a consequence there, which is similar to the force that makes the dream move. This idea of the synthetic understanding of nature is also very generous. You can see it in some drawings of Klee and Piet Mondrian, people watching a tree, you know, or something like that. You can see it in the worlds of some American painters like Rothko or Kelly, who bring more internal emotions, but still today the school is alive with a huge force.?
Believe me, I give much more for this school than for the neo-rationalist. I don't give anything to them, you know. Often you feel really deeply about the research of models of transmission of emotions. You understand what I mean? I think looking at the natural and making simple models of behavior [is wonderful]. The idea of breathing is astonishing, or the movement the body creates by breathing is astonishing. The idea that our fingers can move, the branches of trees or the waves of the water can move when the wind comes, are all astonishing ideas.
In any case, whatever you do, even if you create the most realistic copy, as soon as you choose an object of the natural and put it in your camera, it won't belong to the natural any more. It is abstract, even in the most hyper-realistic representation it is still abstract. Because as soon as you feel it with your mind, [subject it to] a conscious process, you are picking up subjects of the natural and making it belong to your own cosmology, to your own life. This is a beautiful process and the basis of any artistic [process we go through]. I pay [homage] to this word "abstraction." I think this influence is still alive today. If you look at the last works of Ellsworth Kelly, for example, or Rothko, whom I admire very much, there is this intuitive aspect.
AR: You mentioned these few artists. Who are other artists, thinkers, writers, sculptors or people that you've admired in the near past or present, people that have moved you?
CALATRAVA: There is a Russian writer who lives in America, but also spends time here in Europe--his name is Brodsky.
AR: Joseph Brodsky.
CALATRAVA: Yes, I think his style is very clean and I like it. In terms of sculptors, I have a huge admiration of Brancusi.
AR: I can see that downstairs.
CALATRAVA: I also have [a deep] admiration for Arp. [I admire] Rodin in terms of being the father of this generation, you know. And you can see in my drawings of the human body, there is a certain similar admiration and a love for the human body [to Rodin's although my work is] not so accurate and inspired as his. The person whom I can't stop being astonished about is Picasso. He is such a revolutionary man. Even people defending his ideas like Frank Lloyd Wright were in a way so moderate by comparison.
AR: He's still very revolutionary.
CALATRAVA: In terms of the language he was so moderated and so beautiful and so integrated and so organic.
AR: What about architects?
CALATRAVA: Well, let's start with Frank Lloyd Wright. I think he is one of the biggest. His work is so full of emotion. One of the moving things that happened to me was to go Taliesin West and to see these buildings, [which are] falling apart because it's all done in cardboard and wood, and it is so beautiful. Frank Lloyd Wright brought the understanding of modern architecture, of function, of technology, of materials to a high, high, high profile of poetry, like very few others had done before.
AR: And he articulated this sort of organic understanding. I mean, he literally would look at how nature organized itself [and see how] a building should look.
CALATRAVA: Yes, yes, but the most memorable thing is the deep intuitive quality revealed in his buildings. You feel this other dimension in his buildings of sympathy with nature and you know it can only come from intuition, from the idea that architecture can be something sublime. I also very much like that Frank Lloyd Wright is a revolutionary [and interested in] designing [inexpensive] housing. I like that very much.
AR: Who else [besides] Frank Lloyd Wright?
CALATRAVA: Someone that I like because he paints a lot is Scottish architect, Mackintosh. At the end of his life, he quit working and finished his life painting. His work is full of poetry. [But also] I'm proud to be an architect and also to be an engineer, because I have the pleasure to admire and try to understand the work of architects and engineers. So I am full of admiration for many, many things.
I love that the Park Avenue in New York [City ends in] Grand Central Station and [I love its golden ceiling]. I think it is so moving. I think the skyline of Manhattan is one of the most beautiful achievements of the twentieth century--just the skyline. Even with all the contrast, [the wealth and the poverty] that you can see around, [it's beautiful and] makes one believe in the twentieth century.
The twentieth century has brought a lot of very beautiful achievements. Here in Switzerland we have tiny houses designed by [Marcel] Breuer. There are two houses here designed by Breuer. I would like not only to underline the work of masters, [but also the work of modest] people who pour out their hearts as real artists.
I think we are living in an exciting moment because there are a lot of commissions. We are fortunately in a time of [prosperity], and it is very interesting to think about.
AR: Let me ask you about development. I refer to the development of ideas, but also we're at a moment of technological development. The computer [is obviously a great part of this], but also there have been developments in materials and systems that allow us to do things we could have not have done before. We're seeing things done with glass, for instance, and with thin construction and building types we've not seen in the past. I see many buildings now with glass that strain the credibility, [the durability of such materials].
CALATRAVA: [In discussing] the material part of the building, a lot of rhetoric in architecture is very much related to space. You will find the word "space" used many times. I like to counterpose the idea of material. Not the idea of space, or the idea of light, but the idea of material. Material in the building is exciting because it permits you to understand the building. For example, we understand a room and its qualities by going from the surface of one wall to the surface of the other. But it's interesting to think about the interior of the wall itself and see that this is a wall done in stone, this is a wall done in concrete, this is a wall done in brick, or a wall in stucco--you understand what I mean?
Looking at the material context of the building, as just a succession of void places considers the building as a successful whole full of material elements that define these places. This is very important [in expanding our] point of view to consider the material context in modulating the voids.
And then also you get more concentrated in the repetition, in the problems of rhythm, so your building may become more musical. The paradigm of music can play a major role.
In contraposition to this very materialistic understanding of the building is the phenomenon of light. I refer both to sunlight and artificial light, and the shadows they create. The building [must be sympathetic] to the quality of the light outdoors; if it is foggy or if it is full of light, if it is sunny, or if you are on the north or south side--[all these are elements to consider].
Another very important idea [is that of] time. [What I refer to is how changes in duration affect space], how the light shines through a window and lights one part of the material, and then if you come to it an hour later, the light has moved. Or if you there are trees outside patterns of light will change. We are surrounded, we are living in an universe in which things are continuously changing.
Maybe the most permanent example of this change is the time that we notice. Each second is unique and as we dwell on this second then along comes another. The most static, most stable parts of the building are the materials, but an understanding of a building could also be represented by the idea of change. I think this is very revolutionary and very modern. This basic idea of time versus change. This idea is so natural, like the shadows that move when the sun moves, you know. Like the sun moves, the seasons change, the wind shifts, or the waves [diminish]. The material representation of parts in a building can move and react to those circumstances.
And I think this is, in my eyes, a key to understanding modernity and change in relation to architecture. Today, we have all the technological equipment [we need] to understand architecture. We can find materials in the industry that give buildings a new dimension. I understand technology as a support for the lyricism of architecture. Do you understand what I mean? Technique and technology are not a goal but a support to recreate more poetic things, so there is a huge field of possibilities for the future generation to change architecture.
AR: That's fascinating. And yet most building that we see lacks the spiritual quality that you mentioned, the lyricism. Most building lacks that because we don't require an architect or an engineer to bring that to their craft. [We don't require them] to be the priest or the priestess; to be responsible for the soul [of a building].
CALATRAVA:Yes, yes yes.
AR: It requires an interpreter.
CALATRAVA:I like the idea of seeing design as not only the will of a single person, but like a religious idea, like binding things together, [because technology and automation liberate the architect to this realm].
If you look at the works of Calder, if you look at the works of Tenguily, or if you look at the works of [some other great] sculptors, you can see the idea of the kinetic. We are living in a universe in which we use [automation to do] everything. What we didn't have until now is the poetic, because in the last number of years, architecture has looked to technology as the goal.
Everybody's always thinking about time and the flexibility of time. The most advanced, let's say, cosmological studies today are very much [concerned with] the idea of time. Trying to define how old our universe is and how necessary the memory is to understand what happens from one second to the next--things like that are fascinating to investigate.
AR: Let's talk about your ongoing work right now very specifically. Maybe you could tell me about the projects that you have underway or one or two that you think readers would like to know about.
CALATRAVA:There are projects that have been in development for several years, and several years means ten years, you know. We are building a major project in Valencia, my home town, a city of science and art. It is a [group of] buildings that includes an opera house, a conservatory, a school of music and dance. There is [also a] bridge. Then there is a planetarium and a big IMAX theater. There is a parking and bus station for the kids, who will arrive on buses from school. There is a major museum dedicated to technology, a building we are concluding now. There is also a big square and another bridge.
After that we will plan the area in which an ocean park will be built. We have almost concluded the IMAX and the museum is almost finished, the parking is underway, so we are a little bit like in the [middle] of site development. This is one project.
Then we are doing another opera house in Tenerife. This is the second auditorium for music on which I am working at this moment. Then we are doing a project in a very beautiful city in France called Avignon. We are traversing the Loire River with a major bridge.
Then we will start with a new train station in Liege for the high speed and regular trains. The relationship with the city is very important in this project. We are renovating and recreating a new plaza and a second plaza, and we are designing several buildings close to the plaza. It is a very interesting project because it resumes the experience I [developed in designing] other stations. It is a grandiose space, very well situated in relation to the city.
AR: Who's the client?
CALATRAVA: The specific client is called Euro-Leige Station. We have another site here in Switzerland which is very prominent. It is a cloister [where] we are adding two tiny buildings. We are transforming the cellars of the cloister for exhibition, and creating a new auditorium. It is kind of a small museum, and we also have a building for the police in the cloister area. It is very interesting [historically] because our neighbors are Renaissance and Baroque buildings.
AR: Why don't we take one of those projects, [maybe the Milwaukee project], and describe how it has progressed; how it came to be and where you are with it.
CALATRAVA:Milwaukee was for me a long process. I won the competition, they selected me as an architect but I presented very vague ideas. Then we started a process with the client of trying to implement a program and a building at the same time. Through many visits to Milwaukee, [I came to] not only know the client very well, which I think is fundamental, but also to get familiar with the site. And I have to say the site is very beautiful. It looks out over Lake Michigan and is very dramatic and beautiful.
And so my idea was, first of all, to [understand] the city and in reading about the city I came to the conclusion that because we were building close to a very, very strong building of Saarinen...
AR: What is the Saarinen building?
CALATRAVA: It is a war memorial. And there is a very simple and minimal extension to the memorial done by a local architect called David Kahler. So, the dramatic character of the Saarinen building was a very prominent element [that influenced me].
So my suggestion was to [not] add something more to this building, [but to] add something more to the lake front. So at the end of Wisconsin Avenue, which is a very prominent avenue, I recreated another kind of pavilion-like building and linked it [to the existing building] with a bridge. But the characters of the two buildings are completely independent; one is compact and massive, and the other, the new one, is completely transparent and very light. The bridge also links [the new building] with the city. I was thinking that this would create a pattern of events on the lake front that could be repeated, if other public buildings are added.
So I think in these terms, the solution was very appropriate for the actual situation of the city. I created a very shallow building. In Milwaukee the topography is very particular; the city is up [on hilltop terraces that descend] to the lake and you recognize the whole shore, the old lake shore that has been filled in. So it is possible, from the level of the city, from the terraces that are around the existing museum, to see over the new building into the lake. Only the two pavilions, the Saarinen building and the new one that we are doing, interrupt the silhouette of the horizon of the lake.
On the one hand, [the building] is very much city-related and [on the other hand, we have] an unbelievable degree of freedom because we can do something completely different, and it will still be related to the Saarinen building, in terms of the position of the city.
I have to say the client was very much interested in getting a significant building. So we started first of all working with the interiors. [Considerable] discussion about the character of the exhibition areas, the corridors, the meeting rooms and all the [various program elements took place, with the intention of] complementing the existing museum. When I feel sure enough in knowing the client, [I would] introduce, let's say, what I will call a modern touch to the building. And I was so excited by the fact that the people accepted the idea. And so we eventually started the building, which had one of the biggest roofs ever built.
I was extremely surprised to see how much support I got from the technical point of view. Today I have the conviction that the real country of high-tech is the United States because high-tech is part of everyday life. I am thinking of NASA or the beautiful airplanes or things like that; high-tech is very much understood. We decided to do a brise-soleil in carbon fiber, according to the proposition from the local engineer, which is, I think, one of the most revolutionary achievements in the building from the material point of view.
Not only are we building a very daring construction, but we are also overcoming technical problems. You know that I was accustomed to solving [problems] with steel or aluminum--not using such a beautiful material as carbon fiber, a modern material.
I tried very much to influence the building with a certain sensibility for the culture of the lake, for the boats, the sails, the always-changing landscape because the lake has a very changing physiognomy. In hours it can metamorphose. You go from a blue sky into a very, very dramatic gray, silver light. You really feel you are in the presence of an interior ocean almost. I would very much like the building to respond to those things.
Very good input was given by the local architects who proposed landscaping of the exterior areas in cooperation with a magnificent landscape architect, Dan Kiley. It was a huge pleasure to have his experience and all his wisdom [on the project]. For me, it was a personal discovery. Everybody was so lucky that he designed this beautiful plaza in front of the building.
I wanted to [design] a piece of the city, not only a building, even if [only] a tiny piece. I consider Milwaukee a young city, not like cities here in Europe where you recognize the traces of Roman times. Here in Milwaukee is huge potential. I was thinking this is an [opportunity to] not only create a building but articulate this building as well as possible for the city. I can see an unbelievable response from the local authorities through the building committee and directors of the museum. We received a permit to move away a preexisting bridge that was disturbing and [create] a new one. We also received land in order to create an outdoor sculpture garden.
I very much hope when the building is concluded that we show not only a building which takes into consideration things like that the major portion of people will arrive by car, but also that the light, the form, the structure, the movement, will make a unique and authentic building.
AR: And what status is it in at this moment?
CALATRAVA: We are still in concrete works but by the end of the summer we will finish the concrete and start closing the building. We want to open in September 2001, so the building should be ready in June 2001.
AR: So a year from now, really?
CALATRAVA: A year from now, yes.
AR: Okay. How, in relative terms, from your other work, does this work differ? Obviously it moves, I mean that's one thing, the roof is different, the material is different. How is the building's organization different? How is it as an evolution?
CALATRAVA:Well, I think this building is different from any other experience I have had because the process of designing was completely different. We worked very closely with the client, which makes a huge difference because you really get the idea you are doing a building for someone.
I think everything is understated in this building, for example, its relation with the city. We wanted to create a piece of the city. We also wanted to link the building with the Saarinen building in terms of establishing a certain distance to get that freedom. I think that a major effort to do a building in which the whole structure and shape is the result of the pure expression of the material needs of construction was done. [On the other hand], it's unique in terms of the fact that the building can metamorphosize--can change its shape.
AR: You know, I think we've done it.
CALATRAVA: Very good, I am very pleased.