Calatrava was born in Benimamet, near Valencia, Spain, and began his formal instruction in drawing and painting at the age of eight at the Arts and Crafts School. In 1968, he enrolled in the Superior Technical School of Architecture in Valencia, where he earned a degree in architecture and took a postgraduate course in urbanism. In 1979, he earned a PhD in civil engineering from the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, where he also met his wife, Robertina, with whom he has four children.
In 1983, he won his first design competition, for the Stadelhofen Railway Station in Zurich, where he created an office. His international reputation for bridge building was established in 1984 when he won the competition to design and build the Bach de Roda Bridge, commissioned for the Olympic Games in Barcelona. In 1991, Calatrava won the design competition to complete the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City, a project that has not yet been realized.
Other major projects include the Lyon Airport Station in France (1989–94); City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, Spain (ongoing); the acclaimed expansion of the Milwaukee Art Museum in Wisconsin (2001); the Tenerife Auditorium in Santa Cruz, Canary Islands (2003); the Athens Olympic Sports Complex in Greece (2004); and the "Turning Torso" residential tower in Malmö, Sweden (to open in August 2005).
Among his recent commissions, Calatrava has been selected to design the Museum dell'Opera del Duomo in Florence, Italy; Symphony Center for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in Georgia; and the new World Trade Center Transportation Hub in New York City. In February 2005, he was awarded the American Institute of Architects' 2005 gold medal.
The Metropolitan Museum's collection of modern architectural drawings, design drawings, and models includes important work from the early twentieth century by leading architects such as Hector Guimard, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Charles Rennie Mackintosh; the mid-century architect Frederick Kiesler; and recent acquisitions, including Aldo Rossi's drawing for the Palazzo Congressi, Milan, and Ettore Sottsass's studies for a house in Colorado.