Santiago Calatrava: a visionary architect or a modern Machiavelli? How could he be commissioned to build some of the most important infrastructural projects worldwide, with the amount of controversy that surrounds his work and reputation? The answer isn’t at all clear… though definitely fascinating.
Calatrava is a Spanish neo-futuristic architect, structural engineer, sculptor and painter, and has received recognition and honors 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.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
And the praise doesn’t end there: according to the AIA’s vice president, Edward J. Kodet, ‘his design merges sculptural expression and engineering through architecture […]. His architecture expands the vision and expresses the energy of the human spirit, captivating the imagination and delighting us in the wonders of what sculptural form and dynamic structure can accomplish’. 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.
Calatrava has often been accused of inefficiency and publicly held responsible for ruinous projects. On top of that, he’s received a bad name for making his construction works extremely expensive, as he often found himself having to double the budgets for the execution of his designs. Considering that a lot of them are public works, commissioned by the governments and paid by the taxes, it certainly makes the controversy understandable. Here’s just a few of them:
2014. The Palau De Les Arts
In 2014 Valencia council sued Calatrava for the Opera House’s crumbling roof, an incident that caused long-term closure. The Palau De Les Arts is part of the City of Art And Sciences built entirely by the architect at the cost of €300 million. The prime minister and economy ministers of Spain claimed compensation for the restoration works. Calatrava replied pointing out the revolutionary design of his works, but the government was focused more on the lack of the architect’s supervision during the developing phase, and on some technical mistakes on the papers. This happened in Venice as well, where he was sued for the slippery bridge built on the canal in 2008, whereas in 2012 he was fined by the Spanish Court and obliged to refund Oviedo Council in Spain €3,2 million because of the collapsed bleachers of the Convention & Exhibition Center.
2004-2016. The World Trade Center Transportation Hub
The World Trade Center Transportation Hub is another example. The official opening was planned in 2016, but the building recently suffered a leaky ceiling. The original estimate was $2 billion, but the actual cost has ended up closer to $4 billion. Bad reviews appeared on and off line about the real design value, and on Twitter, the Times’ Michael Kimmelman called the unfinished product ‘a kitsch stegosaurus.’ Calatrava refused to compromise his aesthetic for practical reasons, so the ventilation plant for the station is located next door in 3 World Trade Center. ‘He didn’t see his design as being dependent on the surrounding buildings’ the press reported.
Half of the architecture community publicly reject Calatrava, while the other half declare Calatrava to be a visionary, misunderstood artist. But a question arrises in all these stories: what did the governments do in order to control Calatrava’s works and his rising budgets? Beyond the aesthetics, beyond the budgets, beyond the structural problems, Calatrava is also a symbol of a lack of public works management, and governments should certainly take part of the responsibility. So why is he still so acclaimed and wanted on a global scale?
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.