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David Dillon on Calatrava and his artsy architecture


The following story ran in the Feb. 24, 2012, edition of the Dallas Morning News.

March 8, 2012

The late David Dillon, The Dallas Morning News ’ architecture critic from 1981 to 2006, wrote poetically, if not always uncritically, of Santiago Calatrava and his designs. Some samples of his writings:...

On his reception of the $50,000 Algur H. Meadows Award for Excellence in the Arts from Southern Methodist University in October 2009:

“Santiago Calatrava talks about bridges as though he were a sculptor or a musician, calling them ‘symbolic gestures’ and ‘pieces of a grand civic composition.’

“Like Gustave Eiffel, Robert Maillart and other artist engineers, he knows how to make structure sing without sacrificing function and utility. To him, all are part of the poetry. ‘There is no reason a structure cannot be practical and very audacious’ is his standard response to carping value engineers. …

“At 49, when many architecture careers are just beginning, he has already compiled a remarkable list of projects, including museums, train stations, airports, communication towers and more than 40 bridges, mostly in Europe. One measure of a city’s design sophistication these days is whether it has a structure by Santiago Calatrava. Dallas has got the message: It hopes to hire him to design a series of bridges across the Trinity River. …

 “Like Frank Lloyd Wright , Antonio Gaudi and Eero Saarinen, Mr. Calatrava views architecture as essentially fluid and kinetic; instead of form following function, it should follow art. …

“Mr. Calatrava’s critics accuse him of being self-indulgent and exhibitionistic, of sacrificing function and economy to empty monumentality. … But the same can’t be said of Mr. Calatrava’s bridges, which cross boundaries with unfailing elegance and wit. Spare, taut and pure, the products of incredible creative compression, they make movement through space exhilarating.”

By Scott Cantrell