The future is the judge of today’s architecture

THESSALONIKI – I was born in Valencia and my house had a view of the sea. But I’ve never seen a sea as beautiful as that of the Cyclades. The harmony between nudity, simplicity, as well as the powerful Cycladic scenery with the houses and churches of simple people was the biggest lesson Greek architecture taught me. The confession made by the famous Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava encapsulates the entire philosophy of his work, which can be rendered quite simply: harmony and human beings. Calatrava’s ties to Greece go back to his student days when he visited the country to study the architecture of monuments, both classical and popular. An architect is somebody who can create beautiful ruins. The classical monuments, for example, are harmonious even though they’re between 2,000 and 3,000 years old. That’s why we must live our era and do the best we can, so that we can stand up to the judgment of future generations, Calatrava told a recent press conference to promote a current exhibition, in Thessaloniki, of his work. Emphasis was placed on the various projects Calatrava has undertaken for the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Monuments must function as an account of a civilization for future generations, he added. Apart from older accomplishments and future projects, the exhibition, which opened at Thessaloniki’s Tellogleio Foundation last Friday, also features recent work by the Spaniard. The exhibition is based on three principles, or symbols: the human body, the bull, and the sea. Throughout his distinguished career, the Spanish architect has taken on numerous public projects in various countries. His current projects for Athens, Calatrava believes, come as a last chance for the city to acquire a new element of unique beauty. The time ahead is limited, but with the help of God, Athens 2004 [the event’s organizing committee] and Athens, we will succeed, Calatrava said. Calatrava aims to inject a human aspect and high architectural aesthetic appeal into his Olympic projects, he underlined. For the Olympic complex, he has chosen to use Byzantium arches that convey a message of higher, further, stronger. The multi-talented Spanish architect, nowadays a citizen of the world, considers cities and people as an organic part of the modern era. But modern cities, he feels, have lost their human dimension as a result of rapid, uncontrollable urban expansion which lacks any planning. Subsequently, one of Calatrava’s main objectives through his work is to breathe life into cities and run-down areas, with respect for the daily lives of citizens in mind. Man is the measure, and that is inherent in my work, he said. Consistency and timelessness are also basic concepts underlying his work, the Spaniard said. Buildings of monumental value involve a definition of memory. They consist of a visible account of civilization during their day, Calatrava said. He also asserted that it was possible for future monuments to be better. Responding to a question about the September 11 attacks on New York’s Twin Towers, and his views of the tragedy, Calatrava remarked, The buildings were not the target; the symbol of daily life was. This problem is very difficult to solve. It is a question of balance, explains Grivas. The festival started off as one of Greek cinema and then it became international; successfully as well. Like all festivals it has a section on domestic production. Some say that the Greek films are overshadowed by the international section, but it is exactly the opposite. I have received press cuttings from foreign publications talking about them. Some Greek directors say that Greek films are disappearing from the International Competition. This is true. But nonetheless, they still get much more coverage than they otherwise would, he adds.

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