April 22nd, Valencia - City of Arts and Sciences
Sueann and I had only two days to visit Valencia. On the
day we walked around the old town as we described in our previous
story, “Valencia - Old Town” (http://www.jedast.com/catalonia/6-story.html).
the second day we took the bus to Santiago Calatrava’s Ciudad de las
Artes y las Ciencias which we shall henceforce call the City
Arts and Sciences, an assembly of amazing structures/buildings that
make up a large-scale urban recreation center for culture and
At the point where we got off the bus, all we could see was the Palau
de les Arts Reina Sofía which is Valencia's
new stunning opera house and performing arts center.
stunned is actually what I felt as I stepped down from the bus and saw
this large ... this large ... this large lovely thing. Was
it the vanguard of an extra-terrestial civilization come to Earth
or perhaps a huge
whale looking for its next meal.
ethereal, Valencia's Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía stands at the edge
of the Mediterranean, its egg-shaped dome looking something like an
ocean liner's hull or a spaceship. Designed by leading architect and
native son of the city Santiago Calatrava, the building is a gleaming
composition: curved walls, rolling stairways; turquoise reflecting
pools topped by a detached, feather-like roof. But the Palau is more
than an architectural masterpiece. An opera house that cost in the
neighborhood of 325 million euros to build, it is also the
in the city's gamble to become one of Europe's major cultural
destinations." Geoff Pingree, Time Magazine Feb 6, 2007.
the the City of Arts and Science's website, the Palau was designed with
two intentions: to act as a multi-hall auditorium
and also to
serve as an urban landmark "of monumental nature for
of Valencia." While I cannot atest to its value as
it certainly achieves the goal of being a great landmark for Valencia.
The photo below which I found on the Web shows some of the
building/structures of the complex. The closet building (on
the right) is the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía Opera house
which is separated from the remaining
structures by a Calatrava bridge.
Standing on the bridge and looking away from the Opera house we see
several of the building structures.
the center up front is L'Hemisfèric which has the shape of an eye (a
bit hard to see from this angle). It has an internal dome
functions as an Imax Cinema, Planetarium and Laserium. I was
disapointed to learn that none of the shows in the Hemisferic concered
the City of Arts and Sciences itself. Nothing about
Calatrava. All Imax marine shows and the like targetting
families and children..
Here is a
photo (not mine) of the Hemisferic at night with its reflection in the
And here we see the Opera house "chasing" the Hemisferic, about ready
to jump over Calatrava's bridge.
the bridge looking to the right we see the Umbracle
which is shaped by a succession of fixed arches
arches. The Umbracle serves as a garden area below which is
a large parking garage. Because of its parking function, it
is considered to be the entrance to the City of Arts and Sciences.
the bridge looking to the left of the Hemisferic is the the Prince
Felipe Science Museum with "220 meters of white concrete prongs
that resemble the ribs of a dinosaur or the spine of a giant fish."
(Dale Fuchs, International Herald Tribune). This structure houses
a hands-on science museum mostly for young people. We walked
though the bottom story where there are gift shops, a small book store
and a cafe.
Behind the Science Museum lies the Oceanographic, which we did not have
the time to visit. L'Oceanografic was designed by
Spanish architect Felix Candelais and is the largest marine park in
Europe, home to 500 species of fish and other sea creatures
from every ocean of the world. It consists of a collection of
smaller structures grouped around and across a water reservoir. Most of
the viewing is undergound where walkways go under and between
Entrance to L'Oceanofgrafic
Map of L'Oceanografic - Click to Enlarge
Some Final Thoughts on The City of Arts and Sciences
The City of Arts and Sciences is a spectacular display of Calatrava's
architecture and as the Michelin Travel guides would say "it is worth a
visit" (i.e., not only a detour). It is visually stunning and
one can easily spend a few hours just strolling around its 7 kilometers
of walkways. Calatrava was proud that you need not spend a
penny to do so. I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed
to find that these stunning works of art, the buildings, were used only
for recreation aimed at children. I would have liked, for
example, for the Prince
Felipe Science Museum to have been used as a science library and for
the Hemisferic to have shown films that would help us to appreciate and
understand Calatrava's vision and realization of the place.
But for sure, if you ever have the chance, do not miss a visit
to the City of Arts and Sciences.
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