Bach to the Future: Gabriel Calatrava creates malleable architecture for “The Art of the Fugue”

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(Courtesy 92Y)

(Courtesy 92Y)

Like cheese and crackers, music and architecture is a natural pairing. Last November, Steven Holl debuted his ballet, Tesseracts of Time. This year is shaping up to be a promising one for synergy between the two practices: A Marvelous Orderthe opera based on Jane Jacobs’ and Robert Moses’ epic feud, is in previews this March, and last weekend, concertgoers at the 92nd Street Y’s “Seeing Music” festival were treated to a Gabriel Calatrava–designed installation that dialogues with Bach’s “The Art of the Fugue.”

(Courtesy 92Y)

(Courtesy 92Y)

The installation, mounted in a 24-foot-by-17-foot frame, is meant to evoke the strings on musical instruments, Bach’s fugues, and a game of Cat’s Cradle, the children’s game played with an endlessly transfigured loop of string. While the Brentano String Quartet performed Bach’s piece live, dancers manipulated Calatrava’s installation in response to the music.

New shapes, spaces, and patterns are created as the dancers work. “My fascination with moving architecture inspired me to design a set piece that serves as both a work of art and a functional installation that reacts to music,” Calatrava said in a statement. In the video below, he dives into the design process and the challenge of syncing architecture, a medium with material products, to music, tangible but non-physical.

The Calatrava name should be eminently familiar to anyone who follows architecture. The younger Calatrava, trained as an engineer, is now an architect, working on his own and with his father’s firm, Santiago Calatrava Architects & Engineers. An affinity for white, sinewy geometries may run in the family: the 92Y piece recalls the elder Calatrava’s recently completed Museum of Tomorrow and the soon-to-open World Trade Center Transportation Hub, below.

For those interested in checking out more musical pairings, the 92Y’s “Seeing Music” festival runs through February 18.

Like father like son? (Courtesy Queen Sofia Spanish Institute)

Like father like son? (Courtesy Queen Sofia Spanish Institute)

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