This design was a response to a commission from a nation that had become the center of international events, but on the other hand possessed a culture that was little known. Accordingly, the pavilion had to make a singular gesture, which not only would represent Kuwait but also would serve as an international symbol. The two-story structure is a raised, covered piazza defined by two curvilinear end walls. The surface of the piazza has a gentle barrel shape and is glazed with laminated structural glass panels superimposed with a thin layer of translucent marble. The piazza is approached by a terrace of steps along each side, conforming to the camber of the glazed surface. Narrow, curving stairs follow the exterior shape of each end wall down to the lower area: an enclosed exhibition space accessed through aerofoil-sectioned revolving doors.
From beneath, the laminated surface of glass and marble is supported by arched trusses in the form of open, triangulated timber latticework. The tension members of these follow a more pronounced curve than the gentle rise of the piazza. These trusses, which follow the precedent of Calatrava's auditorium at Wohlen school, spring at 2.4-meter intervals from the hollow, reinforced concrete beams that run the length of this formal exhibition space. The main exhibition floor, finished in a checkered marble pattern, is recessed within a white marble perimeter. At night, flood lighting filters up through the piazza floor to provide soft illumination.
By day, the exhibition area is indirectly lit by a calm sheen of light falling through the semi-transparent, laminated ceiling, while triangular slotted patterns in the lower part of the terraced steps illuminate the peripheral areas. At the top of the terraced steps, two rows of equidistant, concrete supports (8 along one side, 9 along the other) face each other across the glazed floor to support the building's main feature: the roof. Here, 17 scimitar-shaped ribs, each 25 meters in length, form the main articulated structure. Each rib is computer-controlled by a separate electric drive to open in fifteen preprogrammable positions up to the vertical and, when closed, to interlace with the others to form a cover, which repeats the slatted structure of the trusses spanning the space below.
An infinite variety of patterns can be created against the open sky. The lightness of these spaces is emphasized by the trusses and articulated ribs, which, to contrast with the heavy mass of the concrete, are predominantly a filgree timber construction, finished in white to match the concrete and allow the structure of the wood show through. This principle is recognizable in a later phase of Calatrava's Reichstag project, for movement of the articulated dome.
1991 - 1992
La Isla de La Cartuja