Sondica Control Tower
Bilbao, Spain
1993 ­ 1996

Photos courtesy Santiago Calatrava archives


The Control Tower for Sondica Airport is an individual element in the program to modernize the Bilbao¹s airport complex. Due to the urgent need for improved air-traffic control, the construction of the tower was given priority over all other airport facilities, and the commission for its design was awarded through a separate, limited competition.

Situated directly opposite the Sondica terminal, with a commanding view of the third oblique runway, the control tower is clearly divided into three components. The symmetrical ramped base, with its inclined frontal glazing, houses technical facilities in one wing and administrative offices in the other. The mast, on a teardrop plan, expands toward its top while rising to a height of 42 meters. The control deck (which also is a truncated and inverted cone) has a wrap-around observation gallery, which provides access to the tower¹s mechanical and electronic systems.

Originally, Calatrava had wished to provide full 360 degree glazing for the air-traffic control level by using a single central pillar of concrete to carry the loads of the roof. The proposal for this central pillar was not approved, however, and a series of steel profiles now supports the roof around its periphery.

The basic structure is concrete, covered in a vertically fluted, aluminum cladding hung on an intermediate structure. Vertical, glazed panels run the full height of the ³trailing edge² of the teardrop shape to provide light to the stairwell, while the lift shaft is housed within the front radius.

Client: Aeropuertos Españoles y Navegación Aerea