Capture My Chicago

Monday, September 29, 2008

“21st Century Architectural Engineering and Beyond…” From Gaudí to Calatrava


During March 2000, I studied Art and Architectural History while visiting and traveling in Spain. I made a Video Film pilgrimage to Spain’s castles, palaces, cathedrals, monasteries, convents, mosques, holy sites, and museums in order to study Art and Architecture of designated UNESCO National Heritage Centers. “As time travelers, we were embarked on a unforgettable journey through history, time, and space by means of the study of design, art, and architecture of the Spanish people, its culture, and monumental cities”—Gardenia C. Hung, M.A.,B.A., Spain: Art and Architecture.


In the 21st century, the architectural engineering design of the “Chicago Spire” Glass Tower by Santiago Calatrava is reminiscent of the Moderniste Catalonian architect Antoni Gaudí i Cornet’s Spanish Neo-Gothic church, the “Temple Expiatori de la Familia Sagrada” in Barcelona, Spain—begun during the 19th century, in 1882.


From 1883, Antoni Gaudí i Cornet was given the task of completing the construction and development of the Holy Family Church, full of religious and Christian symbolism, inspired by the Gospels, evangelists, principles of the Catholic faith, as well as nature, in its originality and authentic Spanish Catalonian style—Mr. Gaudí’s greatest “chef d’oeuvre”, his labor of service and love to God and humanity as an architect, artist, and metal smith artisan.

The idea for La Sagrada Familia Church came from Josep Maria Bocabella, a rich publisher who was worried about the growth of revolutionary ideas in Barcelona and set up a religious society dedicated to Sant Josep, patron saint of workers and the family. Construction of the society’s church began in 1882 under Francesc de Villar, who planned a relatively Neo-Gothic structure. In 1883, Gaudí was already 31 years old, trained as a metal smith artisan, and a successful “modernista” architect, descendant of an artisan family in Reus, southern Catalunya, Spain.

The church of the Holy Family in Barcelona has bell towers as spires. Eight of the twelve spires have been built—one spire for each apostle of Jesus of Nazareth. Venetian mosaics top each spire for the “Temple Expiatori de la Familia Sagrada” in Barcelona, Spain. This Neo-Gothic Catalonian structure recalls the life of Jesus of Nazareth, the Holy Rosary to the Blessed Mother Mary, and biblical passages from the gospels by the apostles. This Catalonian Catholic Church has a central tower symbolic of Christ on the Cross, which is encircled by four large towers representing Evangelists Peter, Paul, Mark, and Luke. Four towers on the Glory (south) façade will match the existing four on the Passion (west) and the Nativity (east) façade.

The Holy Rosary is a form of vocal and mental prayer over the Christian Biblical Mysteries of our Christian Redemption through Jesus Christ of Nazareth, divided into twenty decades of beads. The recitation of each decade of beads is accompanied by meditation on one of the twenty events or “mysteries” of the Gospels by the Apostles Peter, Paul, Mark, and Luke. The mysteries of the Holy Rosary symbolize important events from the lives of both, Jesus of Nazareth and his Blessed Mother Mary. In addition, the Pope at the Vatican in Rome, Italy, suggests to add Luminous Mysteries or the Mysteries of Light in order to supplement Jesus Christ’s public ministry, such as the Baptism of Jesus of Nazareth; the wedding at Cana in Galilee, when Jesus attended; the proclamation of the Kingdom of God; the Transfiguration when Jesus leads his friends up a high mountain where they see him shining in glorious light; and the Institution of the Holy Eucharist. The Joyful Mysteries include the Nativity event when Infant Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem, with Joseph and Mary, the Holy Family.

At the Church of La Familia Sagrada in Barcelona, the Nativity façade is the most complete part of Gaudí’s Catholic church, finished in 1904 with doorways that represent from left to right, the virtues of Hope, Charity, and Faith. Scenes of the Nativity and Christ’s childhood are represented and embellished with Christian symbolism, such as the purity of white doves, which depict the congregation… As the northern façade, the Nativity Spire is the building’s artistic pinnacle, mostly done under Gaudíِ's personal supervision and much of it with his own hands. One can climb high up inside some of the four spires by a combination of lifts or elevators and narrow spiral staircases, “which can be a vertiginous experience”. The spire towers are destined to hold tubular bells capable of playing complex music at great volume. Their upper parts are decorated with Venetian mosaics spelling out “Sanctus, Sanctus, Hosanna in Excelsis Deus. Amen. Alleluia” According to anecdotes, when asked why Gaudí lavished so much care on the tops of the spire towers, which no one would see from close up, Gaudí answered, —“the angels will see them…”

The spiral staircases, stone carved for 400 steps steep in reiteration, allow access to the upper spire towers and galleries at the Church de la Familia Sagrada. These spiral stone steps are designed in the shape of a seashell, also known in Spanish as “escaleras de caracol”, which invite pilgrims and visitors to spiritual meditation and reflection—similar to walking through a labyrinth in Christian prayer. In addition, each spire tower has been enhanced with an elevator or lift. Pilgrims and visitors may walk the spiral steps carefully or take the elevator to ascend and access to the top of the spire tower as a reward for a glorious view and a sense of Christian piety. The spiral staircase or “escalera de caracol” in Spanish, remind me of childhood visits to Spanish Neo-Colonial homes in Santiago de Cuba and Spain, where they remain in wrought iron or stone as examples of their historical times.


Upon Gaudi’s death in 1926 when he was trammed down crossing the Gran Vía in Barcelona, only one tower on the Nativity façade had been completed, but several more have been finished according to the original plans.

After the Spanish Civil War, architectural construction was resumed and continues still in the 21st century financed by public donations to complete Gaudí’s church, “Temple Expiatori de la Familia Sagrada”.

In the third millennium, the chief architect, Jordi Bonet and his supporters are trying to visualize Gaudí’s mighty vision for La Sagrada Familia Church and promote that their task is a sacred one—“that it is not just an old building, but a church intended as its Temple Expiatori to atone for sin and appeal for God’s mercy on Catalunya, Spain”.

As a Catalonian architect, Antoni Gaudí i Cornet studied at the Barcelona School of Architecture. Gaudí’s Spanish architectural design combined art, sculpture, and architecture; thus paving the way for the avant garde movement known as Modernisme, begun in the 19th century and defined as a new style of art and architecture, born in Barcelona, Spain, a variation of Art Nouveau. Modernisme is a form of Catalonian self-expression and a sense of national pride in artistry for the region of Catalunya in Spain. Predecessors for the Moderniste Spanish architectural movement included: Josep Puig i Cadafalch, Lluís Domènech i Montaner, and above all, Antoni Gaudí i Cornet, among its most renown.

Modernisme has been followed in the 20th century; while it is being explored during the 21st Century by Santiago Calatrava, native architect and engineer from Valencia, region of Catalunya, Spain, whose professional work is based in Zürich, Switzerland primarily, and around the world.

Mr. Calatrava, along with his colleagues, associates, architects, and engineers, have been designing, developing, and planning construction projects with ingenuity and innovation all the way through the 20th century and into the third millennium.

The Chicago Spire Glass Tower is designed by Santiago Calatrava under original commission by Christopher Carley, Irish developer Garrett Kelleher, and the Shelbourne Development Group with financial commitment from the Anglo-Irish Bank, and the approving support of Richard M. Daley, Mayor of the City of Chicago, and the community of the State of Illinois, U.S.A., who plan for urban renewal again at the turn of the century, beyond the spirit of our a legacy for urban development in the Windy City, begun by the late Chicago architect Edward Bennett and civil engineer bridge-maker Joseph Boermann Strauss at the turn of the 20th century.

In retrospect, Gaudí was inspired by Catalonian sense, sensitivity, and the Spaniard search for a romantic medieval past, with authentic space structures of original nature in Barcelona, region of Catalonia, Spain. For instance, the Moderniste Casa Milà "La Pedrera", completed in 1910, represents Gaudí's architectural engineering challenge and enterprise lavished into his most famous residential building. The Catalonian architectural result is a perceptual sense of motion derived from a wavelike façade and a roofscape chimney and vents covered with war-like military helmets and abstract sculptures. Barcelona's best modernista buildings by Gaudí display extraordinary sculptured and ceramic encrusted chimneys, such as those found in Casa Milà and its rippled effect in static motion which creates a sense of perceptual and perpetual movement in standing architectural engineering structures.

Once again at the turn-of-the-century, in the year 2007, Calatrava's Chicago Spire Glass Tower design is to develop in construction by 2009-2010. Originally known as the Fordham Spire, this tall, twisting skyscraper has evolved, turning in gradual reiterations under inspiration by nature in Santiago Calatrava's Chicago-designing mind. Calatrava compared the planned glass and steel structure to "an imaginary smoke spiral coming from a campfire near the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, as it were lit by Native American Indians in the area”, when the Algonquin peoples, which included the Mascoutens and Miamis lived in the Midwest, by the Great Lakes of the United States of America. Traveling for trade and seasonal hunting migrations allowed these peoples to meet their neighbors, the Pottawatomie to the East, the Fox to the north, and the Illinois to the southwest. The name for the City of Chicago comes from the French version of the Miami-Illinois word "SHIKAAKWA" (which literally means "wild leek" or "skunk") named for the plants common along the Chicago River. Also, there has been Chief Chicagou, also known as Agapit Chicagou, who was an 18th century Native American leader of the Mitchigamea or Michigamea, a tribe of Native Americans in the Illinois Confederation. Originally, they were said to be from Lake Michigan, Chicago area. Chief Chicagou visited Paris and participated in the Chickasaw Wars.

The Chickasaw Wars were fought in the 18th century between the Chickasaw allied with the British against the French and their allies the Choctaws and Illini. Much to the eventual advantage of the British and the later United States, the Chickasaw successfully held their ground. The war came to an end only with the French cession of the New France to the British in 1763 according to the terms of the Treaty of Paris. The Treaty of Paris, often called the Peace of Paris or the Treaty of 1763, was signed on February 10, 1763, by the Kingdoms of Great Britain, France, Spain, and Portugal in agreement. It ended the French and Indian/Seven Years’ War.


Inspired and drawn from traditional historical architecture and space frame engineering in our times, Calatrava’s glass and steel spire will be 150 stories high, 2,000 feet above one acre of landscaped plaza to be opened to the public. This beacon of light with a spiral seashell motif in reiterations also recalls the sense of perceptual motion originally recreated in Santiago Calatrava’s “Turning Torso” sculpture, a white marble “objet d’art” based on the human form twisting and turning of a person’s back. According to Calatrava’s anecdote and his friend Mr. Johnny Őrback, in 1999, the latter saw this sculpture at a museum exhibit and contacted the sculptor Santiago Calatrava to ask him to design a building based on the same artistic concept “twisting and turning” for a glass and steel structure. Mr. Őrback is the former CEO of the Turning Torso contractor and Board Chairman of the Mälmo Branch of the cooperative housing association HSB in Sweden. The Twisting Torso Building construction began in 2001 and was completed officially on August 27, 2005.

Structurally, “Turning Torso” uses (9) nine five-story cubes that turn and twist gradually as the building rises in Mälmo, Sweden. The upper cubes are twisted 90 ˚, ninety degrees clockwise with respect to the lower cubes on the ground floor. Each floor consists of a rectangular section surrounding the central core, along with a triangular section, which is partially supported by an exterior steel scaffold. Cubes 3 to 9 house 149 luxury apartments. It is a 54-story high twisting tower in Mälmo, Sweden.

Santiago Calatrava is an international award-winning architect, civil engineer for structural space frames, renowned sculptor, and artist who expresses and displays a Valencian, Catalonian love of light, air, water, and nature in motion, sculptured in glass and steel. On May 4, 2005, Mr. Calatrava inaugurated his first American commission with the construction of the new white concrete Quaddracci Pavilion at the Milwaukee Arts Museum (MAM). As an example of 21st century architectural engineering, this Calatrava, open and closed, space structure displays a moveable wing-like “brise-soleil” which opens up to spread its wings of 217 feet during the day, like a seagull over Lake Michigan waters; then folds over the tall, arched structure at night or during inclement weather. This building has become since then a symbol of the City of Milwaukee, in Wisconsin, USA.

Mr. Calatrava applies mechanical innovation and ingenuity in the third millennium for the “brise-soleil” at MAM (derived from the French word into English, that is to say “sun-break) in architecture as a variety of permanent sun-shading techniques, ranging from the simple patterned concrete walls popularized by Le Corbusier to the elaborate wing-like mechanism devised by Santiago Calatrava. Typically, a horizontal projection extends from the sunny side of the façade of a building. It is commonly used to prevent façades of glass and steel from overheating in the summer. Often louvers are incorporated into the shade. Predecessor American architect Frank Lloyd Wright used louvers initially as sunshades for the Rice Building during the late 1950’s.

Santiago Calatrava’s architectural engineering structures have a dynamic sense of space, time, and physical presence beyond the 21st century…which allow a sense of perceptual and perpetual movement while visitors wander through the pavilions and open space structures to discover a new sensory experience with the rhythm of dancing sunlight, air, woven into glass and steel space frames, high vaulted truss arches constructed in interlocking struts in geometric patterns. His sense of design and style bridges space frame, foldable steel engineering and architecture as a form of art and sculpture media. Thus Calatrava promotes and continues to explore the Spanish Catalonian tradition of Modernist engineering that includes Antoni Gaudí I Cornet and Félix Candela among other luminary architects and engineers of the XIX, XX, and XXI, as spirits of their times, “Zeitgeist”.

Mr. Calatrava has developed very original and personal designs from ethnography and perceptive observations derived from studies he makes of the human body, birds, nature, water, and the world around him, including people, places, animals, things, etc.

As a professional Spanish architect and structural space frame engineer, Calatrava integrates his personal interests and training pursued at the Architecture School of Arts and Crafts in Valencia, region of Catalunya, Spain, like his fellow artists Pablo Picasso y Cassals, Joan Miró, Marc Chagall, and Jaume Plensa from Barcelona.

Santiago Calatrava has a Chicago-designing mind which brings the Spire Glass Tower to the Windy City at the junction of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, along the lakefront, west of Navy Pier, by the Streeterville neighborhood and the Near North side community. The Chicago Spire skyscraper is being developed by Garret Kelleher of the Shelbourne Development Group, Inc., sponsored by Richard M. Daley and the community in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.

The Chicago Spire Glass Tower, as many of Calatrava’s designs is also inspired to compare its gradual reiterations to the graceful and rotating forms of a seashell which he used as a simple motif during his presentation visit to Chicago, featured in the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper. The mother-of-pearl seashell was opened to reveal the spiral rotating sequences and segmental spaces to be used for residences and offices in the structural framework for the Spire Glass Tower at the junction of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.

Santiago Calatrava’s Chicago Spire will glisten and shine as a bright skyscraper on the Windy City lakefront and will become a beacon of light, day and night—“Calatrava’s Light House” in the Windy City for the Chicago River and Lake Michigan visitors, seafaring enthusiasts, and fans of the lakefront—as the tallest building in the U.S.A. and the thinnest spire of glass and steel with a 4-story transparent lobby, 1,200 residences, and a hotel with 1,350 underground parking spaces at 410 North Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, Illinois. Visit

As a Spanish architect and engineer, Mr. Calatrava is a spirit of light, sun, air, water, and perceptual motion, day and night, for architectural engineering, structures that stand beyond the 21st century, as a Moderniste Catalonian from Valencia, Spain with a Chicago-designing mind, in Illinois.

Courtesy article written by Gardenia C. Hung Fong, M.A., B.A., Illinois Notary Public
Journalist Media Arts, Writer, Consultant, Technical Communicator, Researcher, Ethnographer, Historian and Time Traveler, Art Major and Architectural Scholar, Communications Media Art Graphics Designer, Chicago Designing Mind--locally and globally, "glocally".
Experienced as Computer-Aided Designer (CAD), Technical Curriculum Developer for the Architectural Engineering Series (AES) IBM Project developed for the Architectural Firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and the University of Illinois at Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. which developed the Sears Tower building project.
Employed as Draughtsman for the Engineering Firm of Samuel R. Lewis & Associates, Engineers and Contractors for Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Systems in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
Technical Writer Translator, English into Spanish, for Engineering Specification Manuals involving Gypsum Processing for Functional Uses, CD-ROM Media Drawing Specifications for Heavy Equipment manufactured by Babcock BSH America Corp., Building Materials Division, in care of Engineer Mr. Dennis Clark, formerly at 400 West Lake Street, Suite 204, Roselle, Illinois, 60172-3573, U.S.A. and Germany.
Art and Architecture Historian, Scholar, Pilgrim in Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Asia Minor; in the Americas, United States, Canada, Cuba, Caribbean...Communications, Languages & Culture, Inc., Illinois 60690-3564, U.S.A.
Illinois Notary Public commissioned by the State of Illinois in Du Page County, Lombard, U.S.A.

Gardenia C. Hung, M.A. Communications Media Arts Graphics Consultant
Gardenia C. Hung, M.A., B.A.'s VisualCV

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Constitutional Anniversary, since 17 September 1787—From a Time Traveler, Then and Now.

The Constitution of the United States was signed in agreement, two hundred and twenty-one years ago, on September 17, 1787, at the closing of the Constitutional Convention held in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania. There were thirty-nine (39) representatives of the states, who signed willingly:

“In Witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed Our Names”. [1]

George Washington, President and deputy from Virginia
John Langdon and Nicholas Gilman from New Hampshire
Nathaniel Gorham and Rufus King from Massachusetts
Wm. Samuel Johnson and Roger Sherman from Connecticut
Alexander Hamilton from New York
William Livingston and David Brearley from New Jersey
Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Mifflin, Robert Morris,George Clymer from Pennsylvania
T’hos. FitzSimons, Jared Ingersoll, James Wilson and Gouv Morris from Pennsylvania
Geo: Read, Gunning Bedford jun, John Dickinson, Richard Basset from Delaware
Jaco: Bromm from Delaware
James McHenry, Dan of St. Thos. Jenifer, Danl Carroll from Maryland
John Blair and James Madison Jr. from Virginia
Wm. Blout, Richd. Dobbs Spaight and Hu Williamson from North Carolina
J. Rutledge, Charles C. Pinckney, Charles Pinckney, Pierce Butler from South Carolina
William Few and Abr Baldwin from Georgia

Attest William Jackson, Secretary

According to a feature article, “Inside the Masons” in the U.S. News and World Report, issued on September 5, 2005, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and thirteen (13) of the 39 signers of the U.S. Constitution, were members of the Fraternal Order of the Freemasonry and founders of the new nation, called the United States of America[2].

Constitutional and inalienable rights inherent in the laws of equal justice, fairness, and equity, drawn by the 39 state representatives, are based upon the Masonic values of the fraternal order for honorable civic-mindedness with “equal justice under the law”, a high regard for learning and progress, and a broad tolerant religiosity. In retrospect, “freemasons helped to give the new nation a symbolic core and a sense of the American civic culture”, as stated by Steven Bullock, historian and leading scholar of the Masonic brethren in America[3].

Symbols of the Freemasonry have transcended the stonemason guilds for the display of the compass, square, and other signs of the Freemasons—including the Great Seal of the United States which contained Masonic symbols.

The founding fathers, Washington and Franklin, were documented and active members of the Masonic lodges, while Jefferson and Adams were not.

The first President of the United States, George Washington was initiated into Masonry rites on November 4, 1752, at the age of twenty, in the Lodge of Fredericksburg, in Virginia[4].

The American Revolution was won by patriotic men, united by Masonic ties and religious events.

Benjamin Franklin was a Freemason in the Lodge of Saint John in Philadelphia in 1731. Franklin used his resources and printing presses to promote Masonry, writing pro-Masonry articles, drafting the lodge’s by-laws, and printing the first Masonic book in America.

The U.S. Constitution was drawn by several influential Freemasons—including Washington, Franklin, and Randolph—and by non-Masons John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. The signers of the Constitution were already Masonic brethren and others would become Freemasons afterwards. Although, Madison, Adams, and Jefferson were not Masons, nearly all the signers participated in Masonic lodge activities. David Brearley was active in the Masonic Order in New Jersey. Mr. Brearley supported the Constitution at the New Jersey ratifying convention[5].

Later, on April 30, 1789, George Washington was sworn as the first president of the United States of America by Robert Livingston, the grand master of New York’s Grand Lodge who administered the first presidential oath of office. General Jacob Morton, a Freemason, was the marshal of the day. General Morgan Lewis, also a Freemason was Washington’s escort. George Washington was the master Freemason of the Alexandria Lodge in Virginia.

More than two hundred years ago, the new nation’s capital was blueprinted in a Masonic plan, designed by the French Mason Pierre-Charles L’Enfant—that is to say, Washington, D.C.

For historical reference, Freemasons practice faith in God, addressed as the “Great Architect of the Universe”. In the Middle Ages, freemasons formed guilds of stonemasons working with free-stone. There were 25 lodges in Scotland during the 17th century, from which 16 became centres of Masonic skills—stonemasonry. The order of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons began in London as the first Grand Lodge, in 1717. During the 18th century, Freemasonry was promoted in Great Britain and traveled to the new nation of the United States in the Americas, Europe, and around the world.[6]

[1] The United States Constitution and Fascinating Facts About It, page 30, supplemental text by Terry L. Jordan. Copyright©2005 by Oak Hill Publishing Company.
[2] U.S. News & World Report, page 30, September 5, 2005. Copyright© 2005 by U.S. News & World Report, Inc.
[3] Ibid., pages 30-31.
[4] “The Masonic Lodge and the American Revolution”, Steven Sora, page 118.
[5] McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum, Blueprint for Freedom, What Will You Build?, page 20. The United States Constitution and Fascinating Facts About It. Copyright© 2006 by Oak Hill Publishing Company.
[6] QPB Dictionary of Ideas. Copyright©1994 by Helicon Publishing Ltd. Originally published in 1995 , in the United Kingdom under the title, The Hutchinson Dictionary of Ideas.