XIV FLORENCE BIENNALE: the Leonardo da Vinci Lifetime Achievement Award to Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava - FB


XIV FLORENCE BIENNALE: the Leonardo da Vinci Lifetime Achievement Award to Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava

6 June 2023

We are very glad to announce that architect, artist and engineer Santiago Calatrava will be the second Lifetime Achievement Award of the XIV Florence Biennale (14-22 October 2023, Fortezza da Basso, Florence). 


Calatrava will be awarded the 'Leonardo da Vinci' Lifetime Achievement Award for Design with the following motivation: “The prize is the Florence Biennale’s tribute to one of the most influential architects of our times, and a recognition of your audacious experimentation, extraordinary talent, and ingenious ability to combine architecture and art in projects imagined and designed in harmony with nature and oriented towards the ideals of beauty”

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 will have a dedicated exhibition space inside the Cavaniglia Pavilion, 23 years after his last Florentine exhibition, in 2000 at Palazzo Strozzi.

Moreover, during his award ceremony at the XIV Florence Biennale, scheduled for 19 October in the theatre area of the Spadolini Pavilion of the Fortezza da Basso, Calatrava will give a speech to the visitors of the exhibition.

One of the most influential architects of the last fifty years, Calatrava is a leading figure in an architecture that is respectful of the forces that run through the constructions, sometimes conceived with challenging formal solutions. The Spanish architect has realised bridges, infrastructures, congress and exhibition centres during a career studded with great successes, not only as an architect, but also as an artist capable of expressing himself through different artistic disciplines, including drawing and sculpture.

Santiago Calatrava © Thomas Hoeffgen
Santiago Calatrava © Thomas Hoeffgen


After completing his studies, he opened his first office in Zurich in 1981 and took on small engineering commissions. He also began to enter competitions with his first winning proposal in 1983 for the design and construction of Stadelhofen Railway Station in Zurich. In 1984, Calatrava designed the Bach de Roda Bridge in Barcelona. This was the first of the bridge projects that established his international reputation. Among other notable bridges that followed were the Alamillo Bridge and Cartuja Viaduct, commissioned for the World’s Fair in Seville (1987–1992); the Campo Volantín Footbridge in Bilbao (1990–1997); and the Alameda Bridge and Metro Station in Valencia (1991–1995). Other large-scale public projects from the late 1980s and 1990s include the BCE Place: Galleria & Heritage Square in Toronto (1987–1992) and the Oriente Railway Station in Lisbon (1993-1998), commissioned for Expo ’98.

Calatrava established his firm’s second office in Paris in 1989 when he was working on the Lyon Saint-Exupéry Airport Station (1989–1994). In 1991, he won a competition in Valencia for a large cultural complex and urban intervention – the City of Arts and Sciences, an 86-acre complex of arts facilities, a science museum, a planetarium, an opera house, the Ágora, two bridges and gardens – and started working in Spain. His project changed the face of a very underdeveloped and depressed area of Valencia.

In 2004, following Calatrava’s first building in the United States – the expansion of the Milwaukee Art Museum in 1994 – he opened an office in New York City. Further projects in the United States include the Sundial Bridge in Redding, California (his first bridge in the United States), the bridges over the Trinity River in Dallas, Texas and the World Trade Center Transportation Hub in New York City. Later commissions in the USA include the first building for the Florida Polytechnic University’s new campus in Lakeland and the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at the World Trade Center in New York City.

Selected projects completed since 2000 include Sondica Airport, Bilbao (2000); Pont de l’Europe, Orléans (2000); Bodegas Ysios Winery, Laguardia (2001); Puente de la Mujer, Buenos Aires (2001); James Joyce Bridge, Dublin (2003); Auditorio de Tenerife, Santa Cruz (2003); Three Bridges over the Hoofdvaart, Hoofdoorp (2004); Athens Olympic Sports Complex (2004); Zurich University Law Faculty (2004); Turning Torso Tower, Malmö (2005); Petah Tikva Bridge (2006); the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences (2006); Three Bridges in Reggio Emilia (2007); Bridge of Strings - LRT Bridge, Jerusalem (2008); Quarto Ponte sul Canal Grande, Venice (2008); l´Assut de l´Or Bridge, Valencia (2008); Liège-Guillemins TGV Railway Station (2009); Samuel Beckett Bridge, Dublin (2009); New York City Ballet Collaboration (2010), Palacio de Congresos, Oviedo (2011); Calgary’s Peace Bridge (2012); Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Dallas (2012); Stazione Mediopadana, Reggio Emilia (2013); Museum of Tomorrow, Rio de Janeiro (2015) and the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, New York (2017).

Other projects elsewhere in the world include the Margaret McDermott Bridge, Dallas; Città dello Sport, Rectorate and Campus Master Plan for Roma II University in Tor Vergata, Rome; Marina d’Arechi, Salerno; Yuan Ze University Performing Arts Center, Arts and Design School and Y. Z. Hsu Memorial Hall, Taipei; Gare de Mons Railway Station in Mons; St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in New York City, UAE Pavilion at Expo 2020, Dubai; the Dubai Creek Tower, Dubai; London Peninsula Place, UK; Kreuzbühlstrasse, Zurich and the Sharq Crossing masterplan in Doha, Qatar - three inter-connected bridges, between 600 and 1’310 metres in length, connecting eight kilometres of subsea tunnels.  

Further outstanding Middle East projects include the UAE Pavilion and the Qatar Pavilion for Expo 2020 Dubai; the UAE Embassy in Beijing, China; and the Sohar Bank International Headquarters in Muscat, Oman - all projects of innovative design.  


Exhibitions of Calatrava’s work were first mounted in 1985 with the display of nine sculptures in a Zurich gallery. A new level of recognition was marked by two solo exhibitions: a retrospective at the RIBA London in 1992, and the exhibition “Structure and Expression” at the MoMA in New York in 1993 while in the same year “Santiago Calatrava: Bridges” was exhibited at the Deutsche Museum in Munich. In 1994, “Santiago Calatrava: The Dynamics of Equilibrium” was exhibited in Tokyo’s MA Gallery.

Santiago Calatrava: Artist, Architect, Engineer”, an exhibition of architectural models, sculpture and drawings, was presented at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence in 2000.

“Santiago Calatrava: Wie ein Vogel” (Like a Bird) was exhibited at Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum in 2003. In 2005, an exhibition of his artistic body of work was mounted at the Metropolitan Museum of Art titled “Santiago Calatrava: Sculpture into Architecture”. In 2010, “Santiago Calatrava: Sculptectures” was exhibited at the Museum Le Grand Curtius in Liège. Together with Frank Stella he exhibited their joint work “The Michael Kohlhaas Curtain” at the Berlin’s New National Gallery in 2011. In 2012, Calatrava’s “The Quest for Movement” was exhibited at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. The exhibition “Santiago Calatrava. Le metamorfosi dello spazio” was mounted at the Vatican Museum in the Vatican City in 2013. “Sculptures, ceramics and paintings” was exhibited at the Marlborough Gallery in New York in 2014. “The Renaissance of the Church of St. Nicholas at Ground Zero” was presented at Benaki Museum in Athens and at the Teloglion Foundation of Arts AU Th., Greece. The same exhibition “The Renaissance of the Church of St. Nicholas at Ground Zero” took place at the Municipal Art Gallery of Larissa G.I. Katsigras Museum in Greece, in 2016. In 2017 “Santiago Calatrava: Recent Works” was exhibited at the Marlborough Gallery in New York, as well as “Santiago Calatrava: Exploring the Art of Construction” was exhibited at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. In 2018 “Santiago Calatrava: Art & Architecture” had place at the Prague City Gallery. In 2019 “Santiago Calatrava. Esculturas / Cerámicas / Dibujos” took place at the Marlborough Gallery Madrid and a great show that marks the 40 years of career of Santiago Calatrava “Nella Luce di Napoli” took place in the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy. More recently he exhibited his sculpture and graphic work in “Beyond Hellas. Santiago Calatrava in the Glyptothek” in the German city of Munich.


Calatrava has received numerous prizes and awards from renowned institutions and organizations such as the UIA Auguste Perret Prize in 1987, The Gold Medal of the Institution of Structural Engineers, the Royal College of Art “Sir Misha Black Medal” (2002), the Principe de Asturias Art Prize, Oviedo, SEFI’s Leonardo da Vinci medal, and the MIT “Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts” (2005), for his artistic achievements. He also received the Fritz Schumacher Prize for Urbanism, Architecture and Engineering (1998), Médaille d’Argent de la Recherche et de la Technique from the Fondation Académie d’Architecture (1990), Il Principe e l’Architetto, Architettura e Design per la Cittá (2002), the AIA Gold Medal (2005), the Premio Nacional de Arquitectura (2005), the Grande Médaille d’Or d’Architecture, Académie d’Architecture (2003) and the AIA National Medal (2012).
Calatrava’s buildings such as the Milwaukee Art Museum received the SEAOI 2002 Excellence in Design Award for Best Large Structure, the 2004 IABSE Outstanding Structure Award, the 2004 Outstanding Project Award from the NCSEA; and the Turning Torso Tower in Malmö received the MIPIM Award (2005) and the fib 2006 Award for Outstanding Concrete Structures and more recently the Ten Year Award (2015) from the CTBUH. His railway stations such as the Zurich-Stadelhofen Railway Station and the Oriente Station in Lisbon received the Brunel Award in 1992 and 1998 respectively and the Liège-Guillemins High-Speed Railway Station received the ESCN 2006 European Award for Excellence in Concrete. He also received numerous ECCS European Steel Design Awards for his projects such as the reconstruction of the Berlin’s Kronprinzenbrücke, the Pont de l’Europe in Orléans, the University of Zurich Law Library, Three Bridges over the Hoofdvaart, Athens Olympic Stadium OAKA, Three Bridges in Reggio Emilia and the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Dallas in 2012.

He received the CISC-ICCA 2013 Steel Design Award of Excellence and the 2014 National Steel Design Award of Excellence for the Peace Bridge in Calgary, Canada.

The Florida Polytechnic University project in Lakeland, completed in 2014, received the Award of Merit for Quality Concrete and was the winner of the ENR’s National Best of the Best Project in the Higher Education/Research and Specialty Construction categories. The same project won the American Institute of Steel Construction IDEAS Award of 2015.

In 2015 The PATH Station Transportation Hub, New York was awarded the SARA Special Award for Excellence in Urban Infrastructure. He also received the “European prize of Architecture 2015”, The Chicago Athenaeum and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies, and the Design of the Year Award for the Word Trade Center Path Station, Commercial Observer, New York.

Museu do Amanhã, Rio de Janeiro received the best Innovative green Building MIPIM Award, in 2017.

In 2018 the Mujer Bridge was declared Monument and Cultural Heritage of the City of Buenos Aires.

In 2022 the UEA Pavilion at the EXPO 2020 received the Sustainable Project of the Year Award from the Design Middle East - Architecture Leader Awards 2022.

In the past 35 years, Santiago Calatrava has participated in over 80 design competitions.
Calatrava’s personal contribution has been recognized by many renowned institutions and organizations. He was named a “Global Leader for Tomorrow” by the World Economic Forum in 1993 and was named as one of the 100 most influential people by Time Magazine in 2005.


Calatrava is a permanent guest lecturer at Universities such as the ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich), MIT School of Architecture and Design, University of Yale, Azrieli School of Architecture in Tel Aviv and the New York Columbia University.

In his career so far, he has received over 20 honorary doctorates (Doctor Honoris Causa) from universities around the world. Heriot-Watt, Salford, Strathclyde and Oxford Universities in the UK, the European Universities of Delft, Liège, Cassino, Ferrara, Lund, Valencia, Seville, Madrid and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki alongside Israel’s Technion Institute in Haifa and Tel Aviv’s University. Honorary Doctorates have also been forthcoming from the United States from the Milwaukee School of Engineering, the Columbia University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, the Pratt Institute in New York City and the Georgia Institute of Technology. 

Besides being a Member of the Pontifical Council for Culture of the Vatican since 2011, Calatrava was also nominated in 2019 Ordinary Academic of the Pontifical Academy of Fine Arts of the Vatican.

Florence Biennale Media Office