Santiago Calatrava

World renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava discusses the life adventure that took him from studying art to becoming a successful architect and back to making art. In many ways, Calatrava’s first love is art. He is a prolific ceramic artist and painter and claims that the practice of architecture combines all the arts into one.

Harry Dennis: It is my impression that you are now making a move from architecture back to sculpture by working in ceramics.

Santiago Calatrava: Going to Manises in Spain, I began to work seriously with the master artisans there with the intention of producing a series of works in clay. I believe that the shapes of some of my vases are real inventions, like small works of architecture.

Dennis: How do you go from creating monumental buildings to working in ceramics on a much smaller scale?

Calatrava: Many architects take that path. Frank Lloyd Wright designed almost all of the objects in his buildings. He understood that the house as a whole was a work of art. It is perhaps a tradition that has gone away, but just one or two generations ago, architects would do it all.

Dennis: What is it about the history of ceramics that you find so appealing?

Calatrava: From the beginning of time, ceramics involved a primitive approach to making things with your hands. I can imagine the sense of fascination by painters like Picasso and Matisse, who at the turn of the century were discovering African art. Within the simplicity, they saw something enormously complex and sophisticated.

Dennis: Do you think your ceramics may outlast your architecture?

Calatrava: I am not sure, but do intend to be making ceramics for the rest of my life. You cannot realize how important it is until you’ve actually worked with the material. I have been captivated by clay.