In a previous post, I provided pictures of my morning bike ride scenery in the Túria riverbed. In that post, I headed toward the northwest part of the city, and could have even left town using the bike trails that are scenic and well-tended. For this post, I headed in the direction of the port, taking me past the City of Arts and Science. I know I have mentioned this area of the city in the past, but it really is a spectacle that is worth seeing upon visiting Valencia. Like the Eiffel Tower, the City of Arts and Sciences has an iconic appearance that has helped shape impressions of Valencia as a city of both the old and the new.
The City of Arts and Sciences has several buildings, reminiscent of the ocean, the source of Valencia’s trade for thousands of years. Each of the buildings is situated in the riverbed, and is surrounded by reflection pools and bisected by an incredible bridge. The architecture is frequently used for car commercials and was even recently the backdrop to a science fiction movie that is in development.
There are several buildings in the City of Arts and Sciences, all built on an amazing scale and largely designed by Santiago Calatrava and Felix Candela, a pair of somewhat controversial architects who also build several other structures in the city:
- L’Hemisfèric, which resembles a giant eye or a clam with a pearl inside, which can open and close and be illuminated in a number of different colors
- El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe, a gigantic structure that is so large that an airplane is suspended within, and houses a comprehensive science museum in a shape resembling the bones of a whale
- L’Umbracle, a unique open-air garden with native Valencian species of plants
- L’Oceanogràfic, a huge oceanographic aquarium complete with a globe-shaped aviarium
- El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, a world-class opera house and performing arts center resembling a large fish (but is being resurfaced right now… normally it is brilliant white)
- El Pont de l’Assut de l’Or, a harp-shaped suspension bridge that is 125 meters (375 feet, more or less) tall and the highest point in the city
- L’Àgora, a large blue structure that hosts sporting events and resembles a clam partially submerged in the ground
The morning I rode in this direction, I chose an early departure time to maximize the light and minimize the number of people on the bike paths. Gentle readers, if you wish to understand the scale of some of these buildings, you can see the workers in L’Àgora windows… they are truly enormous.
The Palau de la Música is also on this route, and its glassy exterior overlooks the Túria riverbed. To me, the juxtaposition of the ultramodern buildings, surrounded by a lush garden and much older buildings nearby, speak of an interesting vision and a balance in a culture that reflects the past and the present.
Note: Gentle readers, if you notice that the names of building hold accent marks that are not in Spanish, you are right. They are names in Valenciano, the local equivalent of the language spoken in the coastal regions of southern France, the Barcelona area (also called Catalunia), Valencia, and the Balearic Islands. Street signs here are in two languages, Casellano/Spanish and Valenciano, and many people still speak this language at home and in their everyday life. Hmmm. A post about this language probably needs to be written!