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Calatrava Wins AIA Gold Medal


Athens Olympic Sports Complex

Santiago Calatrava, FAIA, known for designs that stretch the boundaries of engineering, has been selected as the 61st recipient of the AIA Gold Medal.

The architect, born in Valencia, Spain and now based in Zurich, Switzerland, has long been designing simple and graceful, yet highly sculptural forms, usually dominated by steel and concrete. The designs, often involving a complicated interplay between design and structure, might well not be possible without the architect's background as an engineer: Calatrava has a PhD in engineering from the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. His visibility reached its zenith this year with the commission to design a wing-like Transit Hub at the World Trade Center, and with the completion of his Olympic Sports Complex in Athens, Greece which included the glass and steel Olympic Stadium roof, the Olympic Velodrome, and the master plan for the sports complex.

Some of Calatrava’s other well-known works include the much-ballyhooed Milwaukee Museum of Art expansion, a group of refined, cable-stayed bridges in California and the Netherlands, a twisting skyscraper in Sweden, major rail stations throughout Europe, and a collection of cultural buildings nearing completion in Valencia, Spain called the City of Arts and Sciences. He is also designing a skyscraper near the South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan.

Calatrava's name is arguably the most-mentioned in architecture outside Frank Gehry's, and his string of awards litters countries around the world. This includes the Spanish Gold Medal for Merit in the Fine Arts, the Gold Medal of Architecture of L’Academie d’Architecture in Paris, the Sir Misha Black Medal, awarded by the Royal College of Art in London, and the Leonarda da Vinci Medal in Florence, Italy.

The architect could not yet be reached for comment, but he expressed his pleasure to AIA President Eugene C. Hopkins, FAIA in his not-quite-perfect English: “Wow! Thank you! I feel very honored! I will try to be a the level of this honor for the rest of my career and honor you with my work.”

Record will update this story, and soon provide information on upcoming AIA awards.

Sam Lubell