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  • Writer's pictureGebler Tooth Architects

Santiago Calatrava - Sculpting Terminals

Calatrava is a Spanish neo-futuristic architect, structural engineer, sculptor and painter, and has received recognition and honours for his design and engineering works. He was awarded a Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for his ‘influence on the theory and practice of architecture’, joining the ranks of such visionaries as Thomas Jefferson and Le Corbusier.

His architecture captivates the imagination and absorbs us in the wonders of what sculptural form and dynamic structure can be. A visionary theoretical attitude that is clear throughout his works – bridges, buildings, train stations, galleries, that stand today in cities such as New York, Bilbao, Valencia, Zurich, Jerusalem, Venice and Barcelona.

Chicago O'Hare Airport Concept

The City of Chicago has unveiled Santiago Calatrava’s ambitious design proposal for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s O’Hare International Airport expansion competition in 2019 as one of the finalists which they eventually missed out on.

Focused on redefining the modern aviation terminal with a masterwork of civic architecture, Calatrava’s striking, comprehensive design combines the Terminal and Concourse in a singular, iconic building, where all gates are accessed from single central departures hall representing the airport’s new face; a pearl; a truly world-class symbol for Chicago and O’Hare.

From an interview with Calatrava he says that "right now, airports are simply made up of several terminals. But I think this will change," "Airports need an identity, a main hall that defines the dignity of the space and allows people to move fluidly throughout its ancillary parts."

To do this, Calatrava implemented his signature touch of a column-free interior, a move that provides much visibility to anyone who walks through the space.

Despite missing out on the O'Hare Airport, Calatrava's portfolio of airport and train terminals in impressive with his style being recognised and praised globally.

Sondica Airport, Bilbao

The extension of Sondica Airport included a new terminal and a control tower. Aligned with the terminal’s axis, a four story parking area for 1,334 vehicles completes the unit, which is half-buried in banks of grass that visually reduce the building’s volume. A light glass facade – whose lower edge follows the layout of its supporting catenary cable – makes possible to identify this volume from the passenger building, to which it is connected by a glazed passage.

The roof of the passenger terminal is raised to bring light into the check-in area, following the profile of a flying bird; the baggage distribution belts are located in a lower level.

There has been some criticism of Santiago Calatrava's design by Aena, the Spanish airport authority, because it seems difficult to make further enlargements in the terminal's capacity because the design is too closed. In spite of this, modifications took place in 2005–2006 in the check-in area to provide enhanced shopping facilities for travellers, which almost doubled the retail space now being offered.

World Trade Center Transportation Hub, New York

A new, permanent facility for Lower Manhattan, located immediately to the east of the original World Trade Center Twin Towers. The project replaces the original Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) rail system that was destroyed on September 11, 2001.

The 'Oculus' is comprised of steel ribs and glass arrayed in a large elliptical shape. The ribs extend to create two canopies over the north and south portions of the plaza.

The rafters spring from two 350 ft arches flanking the project's central axis. Between the arches, a 330 ft operable skylight frames a slice of the New York sky, and opens on temperate days as well as annually on September 11.

This Oculus allows natural daylight to flood into the WTC Transportation Hub; filtering down through all levels eventually to the PATH train platform, approximately 60 ft below the street. At night, the illuminated building will serve as a lantern in its neighborhood. Santiago Calatrava speaks of light as a structural element in the WTC Transportation Hub, saying that the building is supported by "columns of light."

Overall, Calatrava's buildings and structures are iconic and memorable. They inspire the uninspired and push boundaries of conventional methods to allow for evolution in the way we design. Despite his critics, Calatrava's sculptural masterpieces show us how that the dramatic can be the efficient and work to create spaces that enable flow and controls of human movement.

His thoughts on the future of terminals are relevant and with the times and it will be interesting to see how influential he will be.

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