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Local Government Cancels Inauguration of Grand Canal Bridge in Venice Made by Calatrava
The ceremony to inaugurate the Calatrava bridge made by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava was canceled by the local government after some sectors of society threatened to protest during the act. Photo: EFE / Andrea Merola.

VENICE.- Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava defended his bridge today from the critics. The bridge in Venice is a work that breaks with the architecture of the city being the first bridge constructed in 125 years. The bridge has been baptized as the Constitution Bridge. This is the fourth bridge that goes over the Grand Canal and while some approve of it others criticize it for its high cost. Those critics, headed by small political parties have made the local government make the decision not to officially inaugurate it on September 18.

The Grand Canal is the most important canal in Venice, Italy. It forms one of the major water-traffic corridors in the city. Public transport is provided by water buses and private water taxis, but many tourists visit it by gondola.

At one end the canal leads into the lagoon near Santa Lucia railway station and the other end leads into Saint Mark Basin: in between it makes a large S-shape through the central districts ("sestieri") of Venice. It is 3800 m long, 30-90 m wide, with an average depth of five meters.

The Grand Canal banks are lined with Amongst the many are the Palazzi Barbaro, Ca' Rezzonico, Ca' d'Oro, Palazzo Dario, Ca' Foscari, Palazzo Barbarigo and to Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, housing the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. The churches along the canal include the basilica of Santa Maria della Salute. Centuries-old tradition such as the Historical Regatta are perpetuated every year along the Canal.

Because most of the city's traffic goes along the Canal rather than across it, only one bridge crossed the canal until the 19th century, the Rialto Bridge. There are currently two more bridges, the Ponte degli Scalzi and the Ponte dell'Accademia. A fourth bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava is now finished, connecting the train station to the vehicle-open area of Piazzale Roma. As was usual in the past, people can still take a ferry ride across the canal at several points by standing up on the deck of a simple gondola called traghetto.

Santiago Calatrava Valls (born July 28, 1951) is an internationally recognized and award-winning Spanish architect, sculptor and structural engineer whose principal office is in Zurich, Switzerland. Classed now among the elite designers of the world, he has offices in Zurich, Paris, New York and elsewhere.

Calatrava was born in Benimámet, an old municipality now integrated as a urban part of Valencia, Spain, where he pursued undergraduate studies at the Architecture School and Arts and Crafts School. Following graduation in 1975, he enrolled in the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich, Switzerland for graduate work in civil engineering. In 1981, after completing his doctoral thesis, "On the Foldability of Space Frames", he started his architecture and engineering practice.

Calatrava's early career was dedicated largely to bridges and train stations, the designs for which elevated the status of civil engineering projects to new heights. His elegant and daring Montjuic Communications Tower in Barcelona, Spain (1991) in the heart of the 1992 Olympic site was a turning point in his career, leading to a wide range of commissions. The Quadracci Pavilion (2001) of the Milwaukee Art Museum was his first US building. Calatrava’s entry into high-rise design began with an innovative 54 storey high twisting tower, called Turning Torso (2005), located in Malmö, Sweden.

Calatrava is currently designing the future train station - World Trade Center Transportation Hub - at Ground Zero in New York City.

Calatrava’s style has been heralded as bridging the division between structural engineering and architecture. In this, he continues a tradition of Spanish modernist engineering that includes Félix Candela and Antonio Gaudí. Nonetheless, his style is very personal and derives from numerous studies he makes of the human body and the natural world.

Calatrava has received numerous recognitions. In 1990 he received the "Médaille d´Argent de la Recherche et de la Technique", Paris. In 1992 he received the prestigious Gold Medal from the Institution of Structural Engineers. In 1993, the Museum of Modern Art in New York held a major exhibition of his work called “Structure and Expression." In 1998 he was elected to become a member of "Les Arts et Lettres," in Paris. In 2004, he received the Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

In 2005, Calatrava was awarded the Eugene McDermott Award by the Council for the Arts of MIT. The Award is among the most esteemed arts awards in the US.

One of his newest projects is a residential skyscraper named 80 South Street after its own address, composed of 10 townhouses in the shape of cubes stacked on top of one another. The townhouses move up a main beam and follow a ladder-like pattern, providing each townhouse with its own roof. The "townhouse in the sky" design has attracted a high profile clientele, willing to pay the hefty US$30 million for each cube. It is planned to be built in New York City's financial district facing the East River. As of 2008 this project had been canceled; the Manhattan real estate market had gone soft, and none of the ten multi-million dollar townhouses had been sold.

He has also designed the approved skyscraper, the Chicago Spire, in Chicago. Originally commissioned by Chicagoan Christopher Carley, Irish developer Garrett Kelleher purchased the building site for the project in July of 2006 when Carley's financing plans fell through. Construction of the building began in August 2007 for completion in 2011. When completed, the Chicago Spire, at 2,000 feet tall, will be the tallest building in North America.

Calatrava has also designed three bridges that will eventually span the Trinity River in Dallas. Construction of the first bridge, named after donor Margaret Hunt Hill, has been repeatedly delayed due to high costs, a fact that has sparked much controversy and criticism. If and when completed, Dallas will join the Dutch county of Haarlemmermeer in having three Calatrava bridges.

Calatrava's work in Bilbao has been criticized for impracticality. The airport lacks facilities and the bridge's glass tiles are prone to break and getting slippery under the local weather. In 2007, Calatrava sued Bilbao for allowing Arata Isozaki to remove a bar from the bridge to connect it to the Isozaki Atea towers. The judge ruled against Calatrava saying that, although the building design is protected by intellectual rights laws, public concerns prevail over intellectual property.

Calatrava gifted the Municipality of Venice with the project of a new bridge on the "Canal Grande" in 1996. As of 2007, the project is still under construction and it has gone though numerous structural changes because of the mechanical instability of the structure and the excessive weight of the bridge, which would cause the bank of the canal to fail. In 10 years the project has been inspected by more than 8 different consultants and the cost has raised up to three times the original expectations; however the work has not been finished yet.

The trainstation Gare do Oriente in Lisbon is known for being very uncomfortable, especially with wind and rainy weather.

Today's News

September 3, 2008

Local Government Cancels Inauguration of Grand Canal Bridge in Venice Made by Calatrava

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