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Santiago Calatrava vs. Frank Gehry: Who is the World’s Best Architect?

A battle between two of the word's biggest starchitects.

Architects Santiago Calatrava and Frank Gehry Shutterstock

By the sheer scale of their work, architects—especially a globe-trotting class of starchitects— can have an outsize impact when compared to other artists. A painting or sculpture may become a sensation, but hovering above a skyline, a building can stand as a mark of civic pride—or a wildly expensive eyesore. At the end of the 20th century and well into the 21st, two of the most celebrated and divisive starchitects have had their fair share of both.

 

Santiago Calatrava

Quadracci Pavilion at the Milwaukee Art Museum

Frank Gehry

Luma Arles tower in France

ARCHITECTURAL STYLE

Neo-futurism

ARCHITECTURAL STYLE

Deconstructivism

AGE

67
(Born July 28, 1951, in Valencia)

AGE

90
(Born February 28, 1929, in Toronto)

FIRST COMMISSION

Ernstings Warehouse in Coesfeld, Germany, 1985
(the distribution center for a casual clothing retailer)

FIRST COMMISSION

David Cabin in Idyllwild, Calif., 1957 (a private family
vacation home in the mountains near Palm Springs)

GREATEST TRIUMPH

Quadracci Pavilion at Milwaukee Art Museum combined his
dramatic style with the innovation of moving wings that alter light.

Quadracci Pavilion at the Milwaukee Art Museum

GREATEST TRIUMPH

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is considered one of the
most  important buildings of the last half century.

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao

PRITZKER PRIZE

Nope

PRITZKER PRIZE

1989

IF YOU WANT TO HIRE HIM, IT WILL COST…

$60 million to $4 billion

 

IF YOU WANT TO HIRE HIM, IT WILL COST…

$22.7 million to $1 billion

SCORECARD

80 (45 buildings + 34 bridges)

SCORECARD

78 buildings

WHAT’S KEEPING THEM BUSY

UAE Pavilion at the Dubai World Expo 2020 is the centerpiece
building of the upcoming World’s Fair, inspired by the shape of
a flying falcon.

UAE Pavilion at the Dubai World Expo 2020

WHAT’S KEEPING THEM BUSY

Luma Arles tower in France, expected to open spring 2020, is a
jagged, aluminum-clad building that echoes the region’s
rugged mountains.

Luma Arles tower in France

HAS NEVER MET A…

Budget he didn’t want to set on fire

HAS NEVER MET A…

Straight wall that couldn’t be bent

MOST OVER-BUDGET PROJECT

4x
City of Arts and Sciences Valencia, finished in 2009
(costing more than 1 billion euros, nearly four times over budget)

City of Arts and Sciences Valencia

MOST OVER-BUDGET PROJECT

2.5x
Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA, 2003 (opened six years late,
costing $274 million, 2.5 times the original budget)

Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA

WHAT HIS BIGGEST CRITICS SAY

Calatrava bleeds you dry.”—A Spanish website
devoted to tracking Calatrava cost overruns

WHAT HIS BIGGEST CRITICS SAY

“I’m not saying that the world doesn’t need any more swoopy
Gehry buildings that look like dented Miller Lite cans. I’m
just saying that maybe the world doesn’t need quite
so many.” —Writer Joe Queenan

 

 

 

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