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Sunday, September 05, 2004

Building a Bridge to the 21st Century
R and I had talked about going down to Tacoma today to see the Andy Goldsworthy show, but in the end we couldn’t face the drive (we’re both still coping with the last—I hope—of our jetlag), so we decided instead to see the Santiago Calatrava exhibition at the Henry. The University District was packed with people in purple and gold off to support the Dawgs in the first football game of the season, but the Henry’s galleries were depressingly quiet.

We’ve had a bit of a Calatrava thing going on the last two years—last year we went to Bilbao to write a travel series about that city and got to marvel at his fabulous Zubizuri bridge as well as the wonderful airport; then this year we went to Manchester for the same reason and stayed at a hotel that is connected to the rest of the city by Trinity Bridge, designed by the great man (it’s the hotel’s logo as well), so we walked over it at least a couple of times every single day we were there.

The show mostly consisted of architectural models (fascinating things but a little cold) and his incredible sketchbooks. I adore seeing writers’ and artists’ sketchbooks/journals—some of the things I remember most clearly in decades of museum-going are pages from Anne Frank’s journals in Amsterdam, Vincent van Gogh’s letters and sketchbooks in the same city (though there were even more fascinating examples of van Gogh’s “rough” work in the Kroller-Muller exhibition currently at SAM). Calatrava’s sketches, drawings, and watercolors were almost too perfect—if those really were his initial sketches, the man’s an automaton.

There’s a 52-minute movie that features him speaking to camera and shows him sketching out and explaining his work. The video is too long (30 minutes is as long as it’s comfortable to sit still in a cold gallery with other visitors coming and going all around), but it was fascinating and revealing. As well as being a brilliant engineer, the guy’s a very gifted artist, which I guess is the definition of a great architect.

At $8, it’s feels a little pricey for folks without a ton of disposable income, but I’d definitely recommend it, not so much for people interested in architecture, but definitely for anyone interested in witnessing an artist’s creative process.