The City of Arts and Sciences surely is Valencia’s most peculiar and iconic place to visit. We can say “Ciudad de las Ciencias” is to Valencia as the Guggenheim is to Bilbao. During my recent trip to Valencia I had the opportunity to visit part of the vast science and cultural complex of the “City of Arts and Sciences” mostly developed by the Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava with Félix Candela, who designed the Oceanogràfic part, that unfortunately I haven’t visited.
I had the pleasure of being guided through some of the buildings Ciudad de las Ciencias is formed of by one of the local architects involved in the realisation of the complex, Paco Llopis.
The City of Arts and Sciences brought new life in a previously underdeveloped area located at the end of what once was the bed of the river Turia, which has been rerouted since it was the cause of many damaging floods and converted into a 7 Km lush park that snakes through the city of Valencia. It’s an excellent example of reuse of an urban space that boasts foot paths, leisure and sport areas; impossible not to cross and enjoy it, I’ve done that every single day of my staying in Valencia.
Insight from Paco: the Valencian community strongly opposed to the former decision of using the riverbed to create a motorway.

If you are interested in knowing more about the history of Turia Riverbed Park I found this article that tells you more.

The City of Arts and Sciences, entirely devoted to the promotion of technology, innovation, art and culture, combines a futuristic look with the city’s traditional heritage, such as the use of ceramic mosaic tiles known as “trencadis” largely used as the exterior layer over the concrete surfaces of some of the buildings and elements of the promenade.
Water and sea life are the main ideas that have led to the development of a whale-skeleton alike science museum and in every building or structure is easily recognisable the use of biomorphic shapes, typical feature of Calatrava’s works. The predominant use of sharp lines, pure white concrete with the use of ceramic fragments, typical of the Valencian tradition, and shallow pools tie all the buildings together from an aesthetic point of view.
We started the visit with the first building that was completed.

The “hemisfèric” hosts the planetarium and the IMAX cinema which are located in the pupil-alike globe and an open space for private events on the ground level, almost entirely surrounded by water. From the outside, the planetarium looks exactly like an eyelid and its figure is completed by its symmetrical reflection on the shallow pool. But it’s not all! The bris-soleil part of the facade can even open up connecting the interior and exterior spaces.

This massive longitudinal prehistoric-skeleton-alike building hosts the science museum with the largest exhibition space in Spain.
The most interesting space is the north hall, usually used for private events. It’s a large open space with five concrete pillars, called the “trees”, that have a huge role in supporting the connection between roof and facade of the building and they’re designed in such a huge scale that permits the internal integration of lifts and staircases.
Glad to know that some passive cooling strategies are used to maintain the indoor comfort saving energy. Wise choices have been the optimal orientation of the building combined with the use of an opaque and solid facade towards the southern front and a mainly glazed on the north one. This way the building benefits of the largest amount of natural light without over-heating the interior space. Plus a natural ventilation system that allows warm air to go out from top-positioned windows helps the mechanical cooling system keeping fresh air at a human height level. (Thanks again Paco for all the, even more detailed, information).
Unfortunately both terraces are not public but the view over the entire science city, from the south one, and over Turia park, from the north side, is spectacular.

An open structure made of a repetition of white arches that envelopes a promenade with local plant species. It’s an ingenious solution to cover the car park positioned below.

It’s an opera house and art center, devoted to music and scenic arts. It provides a very strong visual impact on the visitors so that it has been described as ‘a blend of seagoing vessel and spacecraft’ or ‘some sort of prehistoric trilobite’ but even as a ‘giant warrior’s helmet’. Whatever the perception the building was designed to be a clear landmark, a symbol of the city of Valencia.

A covered multi-functional space that hosts sport, music  and a different variety of events. A pointed ellipsis for the ground-plan and a spectacular white rib cage in section.

 Thanks again CIUTAT DE LES ARTS I LES CIENCES for the amazing tour!

All photos and words by Nancy Da Campo


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