Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I write this as I listen (on Cadena Ser) to the Spain - USA soccer match in the Confederations Cup. The score stands at 2-0 for the EEUU, in the final minutes of the game. Aye, la pobre España. Cómo me duele una derrota. But, as consolation (of a sort), one of their citizens received an honorary doctorate at Oxford today. Well, I guess the two aren´t really related. But since I was at the Encaenia ceremony, and I am surprised and disappointed to hear that the soccer match is going so badly; contrast that with how pleased I felt earlier today when Calatrava was awarded the degree, me inspira poner el texto del evento aquí. First the Latin text (which is read at the Encaenia), and then the English.

Dr Santiago Calatrava Valls

Poeta, dummodo chartam et calamum habeat, versus scribere potest; musico forsitan clavicymbalum vel voces paucorum sufficiant; pictor colores et tabulas non magna impensa emit; at architecto non solum patrono et pecunia opus est sed cum pondere et repulsa vastae molis materiei luctandum. Virum tamen nunc laudo qui et patronos e multi orbis terrarum regionibus allexit et ipsi rerum gravitati resistere videtur; tanta enim arte aedificia construit ut materiem quamvis concretam velut ceram fingi velut aquam fluere prope credamus. Valentiae natus est, cuius civibus monumenta fecit praeclarissima, Valentiae in disciplina ingeniaria est erudutis; quare seu pontem fabricatur seu stationem ferroviariam seu museum, rigorem et phantasiam coniungit. Velut poeta rhythmum, velut musicus concordiam bene intelligit, neque miror eum partem otii in statuis faciendis consumpisse; nam qua facilitate sculptores materiem suam tractare solent, ea item aedifica flecti et curvari coegit. Vergilius in Aeneide de aere spiranti et vultibus vivis e marmore ductis loquitur; simili modo non multum abest quin huius viri opera, licet formam neque hominum neque animalium imitentur, motus capacia esse existimares. Ita museum quod pro Wisconsinensibus fecit nihil quod in natura videmus repraesentat, attamen mentes spectatorum imagione aquilae vel ad altum tendentis vel desuper ruentis saepe capiuntur. Titulus in tumulo Pauli Veronensis pictoris inscriptus aemulum eum naturae orbis miraculum vocat, quae verba ad hunc virum referre possis; nam inventionis audaciam stupet mundus, pulchritudine iuvatur.

Praesento magum Hispanum, qui chabylem cretam saxum potestati suae subiecit, Sanctum-Iacobum Calatrava Valls, ut admittatur honoris causa ad gradum Doctoris in Litteris.

Admission by the Chancellor

Summe architecturae magister, cuius opera utile pulchro miscent, ego auctoritate mea et totius Universitatis admitto te ad gradum Doctoris in Litteris honoris causa.


A poet can write his verses as long as he has pen and paper; a piano and a few voices may be enough for a composer; a painter´s colours and canvases do not cost him much; but an architect not only needs commissions and the funding to go with them but has to struggle with the bulk and the resistance of masses of heavy material. Yet the man whom I now praise has attracted commissions from many parts of the world and seems to defy the law of gravity; such is the skill with which he designs his works that concrete seems to be moulded like wax or flow like water. He was born in Valencia, to which city he has contributed a magnificent group of public buildings, and studied engineering there, acquiring from this experience a mastery that has enabled him to combine logic and imagination, whether he is putting up a bridge, a railway station or a museum. He has a poet´s feeling for rhythm, a musician´s sense of harmony, nor am I surprised that he has devoted soem of his leisure to sculpture, for he makes buildings bend and curve with the kind of command that sculptors have over their own medium. Virgil speaks in the Aeneid of breathing bronze and living faces drawn from marble, and in similar vein one may feel that this man´s works, without actually imitating the forms of living creatures, appear almost capable of motion. Thus the museum which he has designed at Milwaukee does not represent anything found in nature, and yet a good number of those who have seen it have found themselves thinking of an eagle soaring aloft or swooping from on high. The Latin epitaph on the grave of the painter Veronese describes him as the rival of nature and the wonder of the globe, words which one can apply equally to this honorand; for the world marvels at the boldness of his invention and delights in its beauty.

I present a Spanish magician, who has compelled steel and concrete to submit to his will, Santiago Calatrava Valls, to be admitted to the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters.

Admission by the Chancellor

Superlative architect, in whose works function and beauty are conjoined, I on my authority and that of the whole University admit you to the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters.


Al final, Spain lost their match against the USA, and are out of the Confederations Cup. What a pity