Monday, August 31, 2015

Valencia 2014 - The City of Arts and Sciences at night

During the day the scale and audacity of the City of Arts and Sciences is truly impressive - but it is equally rewarding to visit at night.

At night the skeletal structures of the buildings are enhanced by the lighting. They look even more beautiful.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Valencia 2014 - The City of Arts and Sciences Part II

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

Valencia 2014 - The City of Arts and Sciences Part I

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

Valencia 2014 - Horchateria el Siglo

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

Valencia 2014 - Plaza del Ayuntamiento

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 !

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Valencia 2014 - Mercado Central Valencia

Markets in Spain are a joy to visit, and Valencia has the famous Mercado Central which is a must-visit due to its beautiful architecture and culinary delights. Located in the middle of the old town, this market building was completed in 1928 and designed in the Spanish "Modernist" style - the Spanish version of Art Nouveau. The structures are mainly cast iron columns and trusses, and there is a large dome in the centre which bring natural light into the huge building.

The central dome is beautifully decorated.

At 8,000 sq. m. and with 1,000 stalls -  the Mercado Central in Valencia is one of the largest indoor markets in Europe.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Valencia 2014 - Valencia City

From Madrid we drove to Valencia which is a 4 hour journey covering round 350 km. Valencia is the 3rd largest city in Spain, with a population of around 1.5 million. Located along the Eastern coastline of Spain and facing the Mediterranean Sea, Valencia is one of the major sea ports of Spain and Europe.

Valencia is an old city with over a thousand year of history. It was founded during the Roman empire, and over the centuries has accumulated many historical buildings of different periods. It used to be surrounded by a city wall which is mostly gone - the only remnants of the wall are 2 city gates - the Torres de Quart in the West and the Torres de Serranos in the North. Torres de Serranos is considered the main gate to the city, and it is open to the public. It is still one of the tallest structures in Valencia and you get good views of the city from the top.

The Torres de Serranos - an interesting Medieval structure, especially from the back.

From the top of the tower you get great views of the city. Most of the buildings in the old town are kept below 6 storeys.

Valencia's architecture is a mix of Medieval, Gothic, Renaissance, Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Modernist and modern. Like Madrid - it is a laboratory of different architectural styles due to its colourful history.

Valencians love the outdoors - and with a mild and pleasant weather it is easy to understand why.

The old town of Valencia has very much kept the Medieval plan, and is a maze of small lanes and alleyways punctuated with the occasional courtyards and squares.It is quite compact and great to explore on foot.