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CLAD interviews

Architecture is something that transforms, something alive, something new and poetic

SANTIAGO CALATRAVA Multi-disciplinary visionary architect Santiago Calatrava on being artist, technician, engineer and more

Can you tell us about Peninsula Place – your £1bn residential towers, transport and leisure hub in Greenwich, London? This project is very important to me. There is such potential here. Greenwich is an area of architectural and industrial archaeology. From the top of the three 30-storey towers, you will see the most beautiful fluvial landscape and feel how vibrant London is. The project appealed to me because for more than 35 years, 80 per cent of my work has been public buildings, and transport projects and bridges. Most architects would think carefully before taking on a project like this. I was no different, but I soon felt I could contribute something to this place. I want Peninsula Place to be for people who don’t usually have the opportunity to go to public places that are nice and beautiful. I want to make them feel: ‘This is my place, and it’s been made for me’. 54 CLAD book 2018

The goal is to celebrate the area and deliver important things to the city, but also to humanise the building. If we achieve this, it will be like giving a concerto for someone hearing music for the first time. What inspired the designs? The Greenwich Meridian Line. In Spain, if you’re a 10-year-old kid you learn about El Meridiano and it seems fantastic. Now I am building there. I want to impress a child with this design and find elements that excite them. I want them to think, ‘Wow, this is where the Meridian Line passes through.’ Because that is an extraordinary fact that many people in London have forgotten. We want to recall these childhood ideas and memories, and give them form. Therefore, the bridge and its vertical cable will create a sundial in a playful element that shows a kid that the shadow at noon goes always to the north side.

Many of your buildings move – like the solar panel ‘wings’ on the Museum of Tomorrow’s roof, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – or look poised to take flight. Why is this? From day one, movability has been important to me. It was the subject of my doctoral thesis. The industrial technology available today means we can create this sense that architecture is no more an aesthetic and firm thing, but rather something that transforms, something alive, something new and poetic. When I speak to you, I am gesticulating with my arms and hands. When wind blows, trees move and water ripples. It’s the same with my buildings. They are not static. By transforming, they can adapt with time and capture an instant. For example, they react to the weather. With Peninsula Place, if it’s cloudy and cold, I can close the roof of the Winter Garden. cladglobal.com

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