the City of Arts and Sciences (aka Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias / Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències) is a large complex of modern buildings dedicated to entertainment/art/science/meetings/public access, in Valencia, Spain. ever since i saw this blinking eye building in corporate films and ads from my favorite German conglomerate in 2005 (the only one surviving from that era that shows this is below, in the beginning and end — and it happens to be a Spanish version), i needed to know what it was and i had to see it in person. i quickly learned it was the Hemisfèric in the City of Arts and Sciences, but it took me nine years to actually get here.
at the same time, learning about the City made me a fan of its designer, Santiago Calatrava, a person i’ve mentioned several times as my favorite architect. i’ve been fortunate (or fanboy enough) to see his work in a number of different countries, but this is the holy grail — a large-scale environment that is pure Calatrava: soaring densely-packed arches, lots of thin, rib-like structures, parabolic shapes and lines everywhere (RIBS RIBS RIBS), curves that are simultaneously organic and mechanical.
this poster from an exhibit about the design of the City shows the layout and explains the buildings:
Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia
this opera house and cultural center looks like a football with large openings into the interior. the roof is a “feather” that is held in place by an arm at one end,
allowing its full 100m length to hang unsupported over the entire structure with just one more set of supports halfway across the building. this is very reminiscent of the roof of Calatrava’s Auditorio de Tenerife, completed a few years earlier.
while this was the last building to be built, opening in 2005, it is in the poorest shape, at least externally. there’s lots of rust and some panels seem to have fallen off from one of the sides? sad. (i’ve tried to minimize views of the worst parts in these pictures, but some signs of age you just can’t hide.)
UPDATE: i found out today that some tilework fell off of the building a while back and for safety reasons they removed all of the tilework and hope to start putting it back up next month.
there are interior tours daily at 11:30 and 1:00 PM, buy tickets half an hour in advance from the box office. UPDATE: i went on the tour today, €8, well worth it if you’re a performing arts or architecture fan. you get to see all the public areas (all performance spaces, all cafeterias/lounges, etc.), as well as dressing rooms. pictures here.
THE EYE! it houses an IMAX theater/planetarium in the “pupil” and the side wall opens up (literally) so that blinking motion in the video above actually happens. today it was in the open position, although there were no IMAX shows going on (and thus no access to the inside *sad panda*).
the Umbracle is a garden walkway that sits on top of the complex’s garage. the large arches that cover it are very Calatrava, and reminds me of his Allen Lambert Galleria in Brookfield Place, Toronto.
El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe
this science museum (which i hear isn’t very good, but i didn’t actually check out the exhibits) is said to resemble the skeleton of a whale. *shrug* my least favorite building of the site.
Assut de l’Or Bridge
a very typical Calatrava bridge, with a single arm that causes it to resemble an old harp. (his bridges typically have a single arm holding the suspension cables, although he changes the angle of it — sometimes they’re more open, sometimes more closed.)
this multifunctional space reminds me of some sort of mollusk or the fin of a fish. it currently holds an exhibit about the design and construction of the City, although it can even have a tennis match inside. the original design apparently had a movable “mohawk” of spikes that could extend up and out from the building, but they never seem to have been built, or maybe were detached a long time ago.
this marine park was not designed by Calatrava (it’s clearly modern architecture, but you can tell even without looking up the architect that it’s not his style), and i didn’t go in. this was the best picture i could get from outside the gates. i suppose it’s good if you like abstract art? 😀
here are some other shots from the City. the upside-down cones (they look like teepees) in the Umbracle actually house stairs and elevators. pretty cool, no? (interior of a cone is the second picture.)
it’s a really fascinating public space filled with locals taking strolls around as well as visitors snapping pictures left and right. the shallow ponds and water features that form much of the surface area aren’t off-limits, either. you can rent little kayaks to row around in or sit/stand/walk(?) on the water in large inflatable balls. there are overpriced snack kiosks located throughout, as well as some restaurants in a couple of the buildings.
oh i was such a happy camper to finally see the City of Arts and Sciences! there’s much more to explore in Valencia, as i’ve discovered
(i’ll write a post soon, promise), but this was reason enough for me to make a special trip from Barcelona! (and i’m so glad i did!)