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Spanish Architect Wins Praise in New York


Ever since Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava won commissions to design the 2004 Summer Olympics Sports complex in Athens and the transportation hub at the site of New York's former World Trade Center, fans have sought out his soaring buildings in locations around the world. Now, his sculptures, drawings and ceramic work are attracting the attention of an admiring public.

It is not every day that the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibits the work of a living architect. As a matter of fact, the last time was in 1973. But it is not every designer who is called the "rock star of architecture."

Perhaps Mr. Calatrava's designs appeal to the public because they often seem airborne, soaring into open space, calling to mind large winged birds. Or, maybe, it is because the human form inspires most of his work.

"When you go into the design of a building, done for people, the person is the center of it," said Mr. Calatrava. "All the parts of the building follow the measures and the proportions and the height, and I relate it to the person. In my opinion, it is very challenging and very beautiful when the overall form of the building has something to do with the person. "

The exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art focuses on Mr. Calatrava's drawings and highly polished bronze and marble sculptures, linking them to his architecture. For example, his Turning Torso" sculpture served as a model for an apartment tower in Sweden.

"In the case of the 'Turning Torso,' the sculpture is inspired by the pectoral spine," he explained. "It is inspired in the way we stand up. The ascent and verticality of the building and the movement of twisting around an axis, is also very important to be related to the idea of the human body. Indeed, the building itself is called "Turning Torso."

Mr. Calatrava also celebrates the human form in his glazed ceramic work and watercolors, which were on view this autumn at New York's Spanish Institute.

He was born near Valencia, Spain, which has a long and rich heritage in pottery making, and he has a workshop there. But architecture, he says, is the supreme art.

"I think ceramic is autonomous by itself, that you only think of ceramic. Sculpture is autonomous by itself, that you only think of sculpture. But when you do architecture, you can also think in ceramics, and you can also think in sculpture, because architecture embraces almost all the arts," he added.

Mr. Calatrava has built structures across the world: theaters, control towers, apartment buildings, museums, opera houses and almost two dozen bridges. But now that he has become such a hit in New York, he is getting ready to call the city home.

"I love this city so much. This city and the United States of America is still today a welcoming country, like it used to be many generations ago," he said. "And this is, in my opinion, an unbelievable virtue that this country has, melting people, taking people from abroad and making it part of it."

The first phase of the transportation hub at the former World Trade Center site is scheduled to open at the end of 2006.

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