Long, warm applause greeted this afternoon at the Fortezza da Basso in Florence the awarding of the 'Leonardo da Vinci' Lifetime Achievement Award to the Spanish architect, engineer and artist Santiago Calatrava, born in Valencia in 1951.
The award was presented by Jacopo Celona, General Director of the XIV Florence Biennale. International Exhibition of Contemporary Art and Design being held in Florence until Sunday 22 October, with the following motivation: "The Prize is the Florence Biennale's tribute to one of the most influential architects of our time and recognition of his daring experimentation, his extraordinary talent and his ingenious ability to combine architecture and art in projects conceived and realised in harmony with nature and oriented towards the ideals of beauty".
The award ceremony was opened by an illustration of the main works of architecture - as well as sculpture and painting - that Calatrava has realised all over the world in half a century of activity. "One of my main satisfactions," revealed the Spanish architect, "was to have participated in some works in my country where democracy had been restored". The closing of his speech was dedicated to his architectural interventions at Ground Zero, New York, where the Twin Towers once stood and today there is a memorial for the victims.
In thanking the award he received, Calatrava then reflected aloud on the meaning of the word 'archiect': "a word composed of two different words, arkhi which in Sanskrit means authority, and tékton which comes from the Greek and means worker. But there is also a transcendent component in the latter. "So, he concluded, "we can say that the architect is the one who guides the workers, with the help of God".
On the occasion of the XIV Florence Biennale, themed "I Am You - Individual and Collective Identities in Contemporary Art and Design", as Guest of Honour Calatrava also has a dedicated exhibition space in the Cavaniglia Pavilion, 23 years after his last Florentine exhibition, in 2000 at Palazzo Strozzi.
In fact, there are about ten models of architectural works on display, some of which have been realised and others which have remained only plans. The latter include the pedestrian bridge over the Arno at the Parco delle Cascine in Florence and three models of as many projects for the high-speed train station, also in the Tuscan capital.
One of the most influential architects of the last 50 years, Calatrava is the protagonist of an architecture that respects the forces that run through the realisations, sometimes conceived with courageous formal solutions. The Spanish architect has built bridges, infrastructures, congress and exhibition centres throughout a career studded with great successes, not only as an architect, but also as an artist capable of expressing himself through different languages, including drawing and sculpture.
Florence Biennale Media Office