According to many sources, the City of Arts and Sciences (Ciudad de la Artes y las Ciencias) was built to bring more tourism to the city of Valencia.
Valencia is well known for its delicious paellas, fragrant orange trees and relaxed coastal atmosphere. Las Fallas, the annual festival where dozens of giant cardboard and paper mache structures are burned, consolidates the city as one of the best in Europe to enjoy distinctive events.
Nevertheless, high officials in the early 90s felt like the city had the potential to do better in terms of tourism. After all, in certain way, the city had to compete with mega stars like Madrid and Barcelona.
Once everything was set up straight, a planetarium, opera house and science museum were commissioned to native son and famous architect Santiago Calatrava. Construction of the project began in 1994 on the old bed of the Turia River.
So, what was the result of a project that cost millions of dollars and took more than ten years to complete? In short, the complex ended being one of the most striking architectural achievements in modern times.
Calatrava delivered an incredible collection of futuristic buildings complemented by surrounding aspects also designed by the architect.
I have to admit I was attracted to Valencia because of the City of Arts and Sciences. I am not an expert on architectural terms; therefore, I believe it is better to showcase what this complex offers in pictures.
This is the most iconic (and photographed) building in the complex. It serves as a planetarium, IMAX cinema and laserium.
Calatrava drew his inspiration for the building from an eye which serves as a universal ‘eye opener’ to all who enter it and learn from what is found within. The enormous dome which houses the planetarium and IMAX cinema is flanked by aluminum rods which structurally serve to support the building but which appear aesthetically as the eye socket. Calatrava’s construction only gives half the picture: the reflections in the man-made ponds which surround the building serve to complete the full shape of the eye.
Part of the building open and closes as a real eye. The shutter (or lid) is built of elongated aluminum awnings that fold upward collectively to form a brise soleil roof that opens along the curved axis of the eye. It opens to reveal the dome, the “iris” of the eye.
It is said that the echo inside the building is so good that two people located on opposite sides can talk without problems.
Museo de las Ciencias Príncipe Felipe
This is the biggest building in the complex. The three story building is made up of a series of levels and bars which resemble a whale’s skeleton.
The building houses several science related exhibits and lots of hands on activities.
This is the parking structure of the complex. It has space for 900 vehicles and it is not what you associate with a typical parking structure. The architect thought about pleasing the visitors during the design phase.
The parking structure is located underground. For this reason, it is not visible at floor level. Nevertheless, the most striking feature of L’Umbracle is the enormous promenade supported by metal arches located above the car park.
The promenade is landscaped with plants native to Valencia (including palms and orange trees). The plants displayed were carefully picked to change color with each season. There are over a hundred aromatic plants including rosemary and lavender.
In addition, the promenade space is used as an outdoor art gallery with sculptures by contemporary artists.
Palacio de las Artes Reina Sofia
The Palau of Arts is an opera house and performing arts center. It contains four auditoriums: a main room, magisterial classroom, amphitheater and theater of camera.
With this building, Calatrava intended to create an enormous sculpture hanging above the horizon. White concrete and broken tiles where used in the outside surface (the building glimmers under the sun).
But, without a doubt, the distinctive feature of the Palau is the feather-like roof. It is surrounded by 87,000 square meters of landscape and water, as well as 10,000 square meters of walking area.
This is the largest oceanographic aquarium in Europe with 110,000 square meters and 42 million liters of water. It was built in the shape of a water lily and is the work of architect Félix Candela. Previous to researching this article, I didn’t know this complex involved another architect.
Each building represents different aquatic environments. This aquarium is a home to over 500 different species including dolphins, belugas, sawfish, jellyfish, starfish, sea urchins, walruses, sea lions, seals, penguins, turtles, sharks and rays. It also inhabits wetland bird species.
Candela passed away in 1997, years before the aquarium was finished.
The Agora is a space designed to hold a variety of events such as concerts, performances, exhibitions, conventions, staging of congresses, and international sports meetings.
El Pont de l’Assut de l’Or
This a suspension bridge that connects parts of the complex, whose 125 meters high pillar is the highest point in the city.
Here are other photos presenting several buildings of the complex together.
- Clarification: In this article, I state the City of Arts and Sciences was built to attract tourism. This statement is based on several credible sources. However, other sources indicate other motives.
- The futuristic complex can be reached from Valencia’s center by bus or taxi (the metro does not have a stop there). Find more information on the visitor’s center or at your hotel’s reception.
- The buildings in the complex can be enjoyed for free. They are so outstanding that you do not need to pay to go in and enjoy the features.
- Find ticket information for the science museum, the aquarium and the planetarium here: http://www.cac.es/
- The opera or Palau of Arts has its own website: http://www.lesarts.com/
- Do not forget to enjoy a cup of Valencia’s refreshing horchata. Small carts selling the beverage are scattered throughout the complex.
Have you visited or would like to visit the City of Arts and Sciences?
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