Friday, August 28, 2015
The scale of the City of Arts and Sciences is really enormous. It must have been a dream come true for Calatrava to be able to realize such a project which normally only seem possible on paper. Just walking around the whole complex will take a couple of hours, and a lot more if you stop and admire the details.
One of the fascinating features of Calatrava's designs is that the buildings look very organic - as if they are the skeleton of some pre-historic animals. To pull off this illusion - the structures have to look like they are not made of ordinary concrete or steel - but some form of mysterious organic material. I have always thought that the structures are built mostly in concrete - either cast in situ, or pre-cast. When you get closer to the structures, you can see that most of the structures are actually steel components - painted and finished to look like concrete. The illusion is a little bit lost because of this realization.
One of the major component of the City is the Reina Sofia Palace of the Arts. It is an enormous building which looks from some angles like Orca the killer whale. The shape and form has been deliberately designed to remind the viewer of a gigantic sea creature - and set in its own reflection pond it is quite a sight to behold.
In all the pictures of the Palace of the Arts you will see that the building exterior is actually white in colour. The building skin was originally covered in white mosaic tiles which simmered in the sun. Due to some technical problems, the mosaic skin has all fallen off - and now all you see is the base steel plate of the structure. Again another illusion lost.
Another building with is part of the Sciences complex is L'Hemisfèric - an Imax theatre and planetarium. The shape of the building was designed to resemble an eye, with the round hemisphere of the Imax representing the eyeball.
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
The main reason for our visit to Valencia was to see the fantastic buildings by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava. He has transformed a large part of Valencia into the City of Arts and Sciences - which is a collection of a large number of amazing buildings - all designed by him. The city embarked on this ambitious project in part to try and recreate the "Bilbao Effect" - the transformation of the city through an iconic building project. However this project in Valencia costed so much that it almost bankrupted the city, and some major problems with the buildings are proving very costly to rectify. More on that later.
The buildings are set in a park which is actually reclaimed from the Turia River which used to run through the city. The Turia River was usually quite dry, but over the centuries serious floods has occurred which affected parts of the city. In October 1957, a major flood swallowed much of the city causing major damage - some areas were covered in 2 to 5 m of water. After that flood, the city decided to divert the river and today the Turia River has been transformed into a beautiful park following the original route of the river, and the City of Arts ans Sciences occupies an entire section of the park close to the harbour.
One one the main components of the Calatrava complex is the City of Sciences - which itself consists of several buildings - the most prominent being the Príncipe Felipe Science Museum - an interactive science centre. Visually very striking - the building resembles the bones of a prehistoric dinosaur. Calatrava's structural pyrotechnics can be seen everywhere - and it is quite a sight to behold.
The interior of the building is just as futuristic.
Saturday, August 22, 2015
After walking around for a few hours in the Valencian old town, you are bound to get thirsty and a bit hungry. There is a popular local drink and snack bar that you must try - Horchateria el Siglo. It is located near the Placa de Santa Caterina. This cafe is a Horchateria - which serves the popular local drink Horchata - thought to contain health benefits.
Horchata is made from tiger nuts, sugar and water. It looks like soya bean milk, and tastes very similar too but a little bit nuttier. Personally I prefer it cold which is more refreshing, but like soya bean milk you can also have it hot. Traditionally you would have a Farton with the Horchata - but I decided to go with Churros. You dunk the Churros into the Horchata and they are a perfect match. You can also have Horchata ice cream, which is really refreshing after a long walk.
*Note - Goggle Map listed this cafe as permanently closed. What a shame if this is true - as this Horchateria is more then 170 years old and is a perfect place for a short break. Try the Horchateria Santa Catalina nearby instead.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Plaza del Ayuntamiento - the town square of Valencia, is not a very big plaza but is surrounded by some very interesting buildings. The most impressive building is the Town Hall - the Ayuntamiento - in a Spanish Neo-Classical Style. The town square is a popular gathering place for locals and visitors alike, and the annual Fallas Festival is celebrated here.
The Town Hall.
While we were there, there was a special exhibition of Henry Moore sculptures. What luck !