Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias
last update: 20 Nov. 2019
During the period Christmas and New Year 2018-2019 we were in València, the third largest city in Spain. This gave us a chance to visit Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences), one of the most important and popular tourist attractions in Spain.
A bit of history
Wikipedia has a surprising entry entitled 'Valèncian Regionalism', naturally highlighting Spanish regionalism and the administrative decentralisation of the Spanish State (there are 17 autonomous communities and two autonomous cities). The València Community is the fourth largest autonomous community in Spain, and València is the third largest city in Spain. According to its Statute of Autonomy the Valèncian people are a 'nationality' (although the concept is poorly defined).
The building of the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, a cultural project of 350,000 m2 entirely funded by the Valèncian Community (la Generalitat), represents the desire of València to transform itself from a provincial city with its agrarian culture to a regional capital based upon tourism and International trade. And we should not ignore the competitive aspect, València saw itself competing with other cities in Spain, e.g. Bilbao's Guggenheim, Barcelona's Olympics, Seville's Expo, and even Madrid. Some politicians went so far as to see these developments as a way to destroy once and for all the regions "peasant-like complex of inferiority". Competition with other Spanish cities might have been a key motivation, but inspiration came from further afield, i.e. Parc de la Villette in Paris, Futuroscope in Poitiers, and the CN Tower in Toronto.
The reality is that València was traditionally an agrarian society, based upon orchards and vegetable gardens, the so-called 'l'horta de València'. For many experts, the horticultural landscape has been reduced and degraded by uncontrolled urban growth starting in the 1960's. Today, in some places in the city, the only remaining feature is a Roman or Arab name corresponding to some geographic feature or past agrarian activity. La Generalitat has been criticised for allowing a 'voracious urbanism' in places such as València, Alicante and Castellón. Some places have simply become over-populated, and where the necessary infrastructure has not been built (e.g. roads, schools, etc.). Prices were inflated, a real estate bubble appeared, and now in some places there are as many as 15-20% empty or abandoned properties.
The situation in the Valèncian region is particularly confused, because regional politics can mean many different things, e.g. from what might be called cultural regionalism (asserting cultural differences) through to regional nationalism with some people advocating self-determination and even nation-state sovereignty. What is certain is that successive regional governments have all tried to reinforce regionalism through the idea of modernity, and what better way to do that than through a Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias.
In the early 1980's, with the Statute of Autonomy, there was much contentious negotiation concerning symbols and the regional language. The new Generalitat wanted to establish its authority, to reinforce regional cohesion, and to give greater importance to the regional capital. And the broader desire to modernise the region produced in 1989 the idea for a 'city of science and technology' (or even a European capital of science and innovation). The first idea, outlined in 1991, was for a 327 metre tall 'tower of communication', a science museum and a planetarium.
Politics and politicians change (and change again), and in 1995 the Partido Popular (PP) won against the Socialists. They announced sweeping privatisation and a review of the 'city of science'. Their idea was to invite companies like Disney and Universal Studios to invest in the project. So the PP cancelled the communication tower and museum, just keeping the planetarium (for which building contracts had already been signed). The problem was the project had already caught peoples imagination, and the 'city of science' had come to symbolise modernity.
Until the 'attack' on the project by the PP everyone could see that things had got out of hand, with pride dominating over rationality and sense of proportion. But with the arrival of the PP to power almost everyone joined together to defend the original project, and the PP's proposal to redesign the park was not well received. The general idea was that you could not replace an important cultural and educational concept with a 'theme park'. By this time the designs of Calatrava (see later on this webpage) had become the symbols of the city, and the PP was accused of wanting to 'destroy the future'.
Finally the PP backed down. They went ahead and built the planetarium and the science museum. They replaced the cancelled communication tower with an even more expensive concert hall (Palau de les Arts) and then added a still even more expensive aquarium 'L'Oceanographic'. By this time the party, the PP, who initially wanted to cancel everything, finally sold the idea of València and its Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias as "leading the regions of Europe".
This complex is actually made up by six buildings and a bridge:-
L'Hemisfèric (completed in 1998)
The Science Museum Principe Felipe (completed in 2000)
L'Umbracle (completed in 2001)
El Palau de les Arts Reina (completed in 2005)
L'Oceanogràfic (completed in 2003)
L'Àgora (completed in 2009)
and El Pont de l'Assut de l'Or (completed in 2008).
The Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias has its own website, which provides a description of each building on the site, the exhibitions and activity programs, and ticketing information.
Félix Candela Outeriño (1910-1997) was a Spanish-Mexican architect who became known for the use of thin shells of reinforced concrete (known as 'cascarones' or eggshells), and later laminated structures. An example of his work is the sports pavilion for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico.
According to Wikipedia Candela had fought against Franco, and as such was shipped off to Mexico in 1939. There he started to engineer thin-shell concrete structures, and he was responsible for several hundred projects through the 50's and 60's. In the 70's he turned to teaching.
From 1976, with the death of Franco, Candela increasingly visited Spain, and continued to take on projects both in Spain and around the world.
Santiago Calatrava Valls was born in València in 1951, qualified as a civil engineer in Switzerland and received his license as a structural engineer in the US in 1997.
According to Wikipedia he is best known for his bridges, however he also developed a reputation for buildings such as the Olympic sports complex in Athens (below), where you can 'see' the structural engineering at work.
You can check out his portfolio of projects on his website.
Through the early 80's Santiago Calatrava collaborated on a large number of projects involving structural engineering. For example, he was part of a team that won a competition to design four façades for warehouses in Coesfeld in Germany. Later he was work on the design of the Kuwait Pavilion for the 1992 World's Fair in Seville. He would also design the fan-shaped canopy of the Gare de Lyon-Saint-Exupéry (the railway station attached to the airport seen below).
One of Calatrava's more recent commissions is the World Trade Centre Transportation Hub, in the rebuilt World Trade Centre.
City of Arts and Sciences
In 1957 there was a disastrous flood of the Turia river in València (see Great Flood of Valencia), killing at least 81 people. In the period 1961-1973 the river was rerouted south of València, leaving a 7 kilometre dried-out riverbed running through the city and down to the sea.
In 1991 Santiago Calatrava was responsible for a winning proposal to build a telecommunications tower in València. The site was in the dried-up river bed. He subsequently received a commission to develop a complex of three buildings to be called 'The City of Arts and Sciences'. The idea was to have an elevated central walkway that would link the telecommunications tower at one end with a long-ribbed science museum at the other end. In the middle there would be a planetarium where the roof could open and close. After a change of government in 1996, the planned telecommunication tower was replaced by an opera house.
In 1987 Calatrava had already been commissioned by the Junta de Andalusia to build a bridge to span the Meandro San Jeronimo in Seville. The occasion was the 1992 World's Fair and the result was the 200 metre long Alamillo Bridge, which immediately became a landmark.
Quickly an underwater 'city' (L'Oceanogràfic) was added to the 'city', and Felix Candela was commissioned. The client for this was the government of València, and in fact worked started first on this building.
Before looking at each building let's try to get a feel for the whole site. Below we have different views of the entire site, i.e. a street view, a couple of 'tourist' plans, and two aerial views.
This planetarium was designed by Calatrava, and although it was not the first building started it was the first building opened in April 1998. In many ways it is the centrepiece of the entire complex.
The building is meant to resemble a giant eye, and is also known as the 'Eye of Knowledge'. You can see from the initial designs of Calatrava that the inspiration for the concept of this building was very explicitly the human eye.
The whole shape of the eye is completed by a mirror, in the from of a surface of the water. The building is surrounded by a water pool, and the bottom of the pool is made of glass.
What you have in fact is a kind of 'eyelid' made up of two parts that open and close, and also serve as a shade-shutter (above the 'eyelid' is closed, and below it's open).
The structure of the 'eyelid' is aluminium and we can see the dome that is conceived as the pupil of the eye. Below we have the entrance.
The below photograph works to situate the planetarium with respect to the other buildings on the site.
The Science Museum Principe Felipe
The second building on the site is The Science Museum Principe Felipe ('Museu de las Ciències Principe Felipe'), which was also designed by Santiago Calatrava.
The shape of the building resembles the skeleton of a whale. This prehistoric skeleton is designed by the repetition of the one element, which acts as a structural module or 'primitive' that is repeated along the entire length of the building. The symmetrical ends of the building are braced firmly by triangulated structures which also mark the entrances.
The building was designed in 1991-1995 and constructed was completed in 2001. It covers a single space 220 meters long, 80 meters wide and 55 meters high, with a surface area of around 40,000 m2 on three floors (about 26,000 m2 are used for exhibitions).
Structurally the building is composed of white concrete for the skeleton, and glass with a steel support structure. The entire white supporting concrete framework of the south-facing façade is filled with glass (see above).
The north-facing facade (above) is a glass and steel screen that forms a continuous curtain along the full length of the building.
The interior space is supported by five concrete 'trees' (above) which supports the link between roof and façade and permits the integration of service cores and lifts.
The website of the museum explains the different exhibitions. When we visited the museum we were particularly impressed by the one on Mars and 'Explore Your DNA' (which I think has been replaced by a new exhibition on the human brain and memory).
Palau de Les Artes Reina Sofía
It is the main building of the complex, located on the western side of the axle and is a landmark. This component represents the commitment to art, spreading music, dancing and theater. Their suggestive reference to the nautical activity is almost like a metaphor of a boat that had run aground on the ancient riverbed of Turia. The building has an area of 37,000 square meters and more than 70 meters in height. Inside, you will find four large rooms: the main hall, the Aula Magistral, an amphitheater and Theater and House and also a showroom. The spaces are varied and numerous.
Cantilever slabs at different heights are joined by stairs hidden between the cover’s metal side, in addition to the elevators with panoramic views of the city. The cover or ‘pen’ is the most spectacular structure with 230 meters long and more than 70 meters height while the two ‘shells’, which embrace the buildings, are constructed of steel sheet with an approximate weight of 3,000 tons lined by the outer ceramic coating. The maximum dimensions of the building envelopes are up 163 meters long and 87 meters wide.
Courtesy of Santiago Calatrava
Used in its construction:
More than 77,000 cubic meters of concrete
With more than 275,000 cubic meters of earthwork
About 1750 meters of piles
38,500 square meters of granite
Over 20,000 square feet of trencadís
More than 1450 units of doors
3360 square meters of glass.
Nearly 20,000,000 kg of structural steel corrugated
More than 10,000,000 kg of structural steel
7. Controversy and opinions on Calatrava’s projects
He is one of the greatest architects in the world, known for his complex aesthetic and complicated projects. But behind the Spanish Santiago Calatrava is the trace of frustrated customers, from the wine cellar near La Rioja, whose leaky roof causes a lack of control over humidity, with the dazzling City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, whose final cost was four times higher than the original price.
The largest and perhaps the most controversial collection of his works is in the hometown of Valencia. The City of Arts and Sciences complex, which includes a concert hall, an opera house and a planetarium, has seen a cost increase of over EUR 1 billion. Since the opening of the auditorium in 2005, the authorities have complained about a leaky roof and fragments of a complicated mosaic departing during strong winds.
Despite all his global success, the architect remains a controversial figure in Spain. In Bilbao, called a glass-walled footbridge, it began to be called a bridge with a howl, with passers-by slipping and falling every time it rained, while the airport on the outskirts of the city was built without an arrival hall, which left the airport authorities to build glass shelters on their own so that visitors do not stay cold. In La Rioja, northern Spain, the Ysios wine cellar has initiated a lawsuit on a leaky roof that has compromised its ability to control humidity, while in Oviedo the court ordered Calatrava and his team to pay 2.9 million euros after part of the conference center broke down during construction.
When asked about cost overruns, Calatrava pointed to the building design process - There is a sketch, competition and contract award. And from there you hope that you have a fair price. But it is very difficult because there are a thousand variables that no one can control. For example, he said, building in Manhattan was more expensive because the cost of transporting goods to the island was very expensive. But we all try to be more precise.
At the age of 63, Calatrava said he hoped that the best in his career is yet to come - Many architects whom I admire gave the best. I hope I will do the same.
Before 2008, much of the European periphery experienced a construction boom made possible by easy credit. Nowhere built more than Spain. Since that time, however, the property market has exploded and left Spain’s economy in shambles. Empty homes, beach houses, and even unused airports are scattered across the landscape. The boom years of frantic construction are memorialized in more than a million excess properties (even finished homes have been bulldozed in an effort to restore value to the market). Municipal governments also eagerly took part in the building boom, using EU grants and loans to modernize infrastructure, subsidize business zones, and erect new entrainment facilities. Since 2008, many public and private building projects have stalled. Others are finished, but have shackled local governments with years of public debt.
The grandiosity of contemporary buildings looks, to many, like arrogance.
The Spanish public has come to associate construction projects with the crisis. This is true for both the bland and vacant tourist villas that cling to Spain’s abundant coastline as well as grand new public buildings that were supposed to be symbols of architectural and cultural achievement. Debt-financed airports and elegant, but disused, cultural centers built by “starchitects” are ready symbols of the country’s relapse into marginality (a condition supposedly shrugged off with the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975). The landscapes are, for citizens, symbolic of the redrawn geopolitical lines of Europe—those that split the North and the South, the countries that owe money and those that would like to collect it. No longer the markers of ascent of just seven years ago, new architecture represents political and economic folly. The grandiosity of contemporary buildings looks, to many, like arrogance.
Spain’s recent history has been marked by a pronounced change in the land, from rural to urban, and a boom in stylish new buildings designed by world famous architects. After the death of Franco, many Spaniards took pride in their newly democratic country. The economy shifted in many places from agrarian to tourism based. In the 1990s, it shifted again: from beachfront sprawl to smart new hotels. New buildings by architects like Norman Foster and Jean Nouvel conferred a sense of national pride, refreshing and exuberant after long years of economic underachievement and political instability. As one informant, a real estate developer, told me: “we went from having cities that people compared to Don Quixote to new buildings that people associated with the Jetsons… before the bubble, it was an exciting, almost giddy time for us.”
Developers and architects were eager to build even more in the 2000s. With the support of European Union development funds, many found they could transform a modest commission for a train station or a post office into a multi-million-Euro pièce de résistance that would realize their most fantastic plans. Indeed, the success of Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in the industrial city of Bilbao was so inspirational to urbanists that its ability to draw attention and tourists was known as the “Bilbao Effect.” Even more promising, there seemed to be an unending appetite for second homes on the beach and new suburban apartments in Madrid and Barcelona.
There was just one problem: the thriving culture of new architecture was premised upon an over-heated property market. When it dramatically collapsed, the housing sector nearly took down every major Spanish bank with it. Now, real estate development holds no excitement, only disdain and outrage. Spaniards are disgusted with the ongoing sovereign debt crisis, and the social meaning of their built environment has shifted as political and economic circumstances have changed. Architecture, recently celebrated, is a specter of folly.
Frank Gehry’s daring Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.
Mark B. Schlemmer via Flickr Creative Commons
The City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia was built by the celebrated native-son of that City, Santiago Calatrava, who spent more than a billion euros of public funds to erect an opera house, science museum, and sprawling riverbed park. Calatrava, who also built the new World Trade Center PATH Station, is Spain’s most famous architect. Known for majestic public infrastructure works, his frequent budget increases during construction—sometimes doubling the projects’ budgets—have been forgiven because of his stylistic and engineering genius. But not in debt-stricken Spain. In a matter of years, the City of Arts and Sciences has gone from an acclaimed new landmark to a loathsome reminder of the country’s debt and mismanagement. The white-washed futuristic buildings in the river-park, once a symbol of civic pride, now look like an extravagance.
These shifts illustrate the political contingency of opinions about urban beauty. In Spain, the aesthetic grandeur of the project seems temporary, holding only so long before the politics of austerity realigned people’s sense of taste and propriety. Elena, a native of Valencia, described the Calatrava opera house as a “giant hungry bug ready to devour the city.” She continued: “When I see a new building now, all I think about is that it is either empty or there are not Spanish people living there. I don’t care how beautiful it is…”
The social understanding of a single building can radically change as political forces mature or disintegrate.
Spain has a long history of welcoming second-home owners, particularly Northern European, semi-permanent retirees. Today, these foreign enclaves have become more contentious. Debt politics are straining the nascent euro-cosmopolitanism that has joined Northern European buyers and locals. Many economically-struggling Spaniards are even more indignant that their government has offered EU residency to wealthy Russian and Chinese home-buyers, who are eager to cash-in on the crisis and gain access to unlimited European travel. Last year, Madrid’s iconic skyscraper—called the Spain Building—was bought by a Chinese billionaire. The sale symbolically informed Madrileños that the city could not even keep its totems under national ownership. As in Greece and Portugal, many Spaniards now see foreign investment not as a bellows directed at reigniting the embers of the economy, but a sign that everything—from beaches and islands to national patrimony—is for sale.
These shifts illustrate the political contingency of opinions about urban beauty.
Still, since real estate took up nearly a third of the Spanish economy before abruptly plummeting in 2008, it doesn’t take long to find ghost towns, abandoned homes, or projects that cost far more than budget-lacerated municipalities can bear to pay back. Among the population, 24% are unemployed, and nearly 50% of young people are jobless. Young men, many of whom left school to work in construction during the boom, are vexing exemplars of a new “lost generation.” They had driven German luxury cars and made a thousand euros a week building homes. Now they share their parents’ pensions. Particularly for the young, the fields of architecture and property development are associated with recklessness and corruption. Their antipathy is not just toward politicians and bankers—who let the real estate bubble grow to dangerous proportions and, some of whom, like the former National Treasurer, are under indictment for outright graft—but extends to the buildings themselves.
Jose Manuel, an unemployed former student, told me: “There are a lot of buildings that I used to like: luxurious ones that seemed to be from a different country… maybe some Arab place with oil… now I hate them. All I can think about is who got paid and how much.” He mentions the nearly-abandoned suburb of Seseña on the outskirts of Madrid, with its thousands of empty apartments. It has gained international attention: “It makes us look bad… like we don’t know what we are doing… I think it reinforces this image of the lazy southern European, the siesta and fiesta guy who just takes money, builds shit, and no one wants the product.” Jose Manuel is pessimistic about the future, and he now hopes to leave Spain for Northern Europe. “Somewhere like Germany or Denmark,” he says, adding in English: “Somewhere that has its shit together.”
The 3D IMAX Cinema in the Calatrava-conceived City of Arts and Sciences, seen at night.
David K via Flickr Creative Commons
The Edificio España, built in 1953, was once Spain’s tallest skyscraper. It was vacant for years before its 2014 sale to Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin.
Álvaro Ibáñez via Flickr Creative Commons
Spain’s real estate troubles speak more broadly about how urban forms offer an immediate illustration of contemporary politics: Mussolini’s government buildings were grandiose; Mexico’s class-divided cities are marked by a profusion of gates and walls; and the bawdy times of Weimar Berlin were reflected in the daring style of the Bauhaus School. What’s more, the social understanding of a single building can radically change as political forces mature or disintegrate. One only has to think of formerly revered socialist buildings—which, before 1989, projected steadfastness, but now seem menacing and out-of-scale.
Usually, these moments take place not just when political leaders change, but when forms of government are overthrown. Yet, we can find more subtle readings of the built environment in places like Spain, where the economy has soured and citizens now feel marginalized, again on the “periphery” of Europe. Many remain proud of the country’s emergence as an architectural destination, but are dismayed by suburbs and homes that have been left unused, silent markers of a time that’s passed. They also worry that the sacrifices of great architecture—in the form of public debt taken on to build extravagant new bridges, stations, museums, and airports—cannot be worth the social cost ever again.
The economic impact of the cultural and scientific complex will increase by 2.2% in 2018, according to a study by the Ivie. The demand for seu activitat will benefit over the hostaleria i immobiliàries, i in a family-friendly way. The Museu de les Ciències will reorient the seus continguts cap a l'estudi and the divulgation of climatic canvi.
The Ciutat de les Ciències will contribute 113 million euros and 3,509 occupations to the Valencian economy in 2018 MANUEL BRUQUE / EFE The economic, but also tourist and social, competence of the City of Arts and Sciences of Valencia complex It is measured by the number of visitors and the direct revenues that it generates, but also by the contribution to the Valencian economy as a focal point for visitors and as a generator of connectivity. These are the variables that measure a real-time study for any consecutive period of the Institut Valencià d'Investigacions Econòmiques (Ivie) titulat Economic and social impact of the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències in the Comunitat Valenciana 2018 (it is possible to download in enllaç, in PDF). The director, Joaquín Maudos, explained that he said the principals claus d'aquest, which as a summary consists in the contribution of 113.48 million euros to the Valencian economy (to the Producte Interior Brut, GDP) , 2.2% more than l'any passat, and the generation of the equivalent to 3,509 occupations at full temps, 1.4% more than in 2017. Per to arrive at aquests xifres finals, the report analyitza variables com despeses de funcionament per edificis, ranging from 3.2 million in the Hemisfèric to 22.8 in the Palau de les Arts, which in total amounted to 56.34 million, 10.6% more than in 2017. A This is a great opportunity to make the most of the tourism, which includes the names of visitors, the mitjana déjà vitae of cadascun d'ells and the influence of the visit to the Ciutat de les Ciències to visit Valencia as a destination. The total name of visitors is going to be 2.7 million in 2018, of which 54.5% will go to the Oceanogràfic, 28.7% to the Museu, 13.3% to the Hemisfèric and 3.5 % to Palau de les Arts. The mitjana diària despesa is going to be at 98.5 euros (106.6 in the cas dels estrangers i 93.2 els espanyols). Moreover, for two out of every three tourists, the existence of the complex has sigut "enough or very important" to decide for itself as a destination. Per sectors, l'activitat de la Ciutat de les Ciències will pull the demand especially in l'hostaleria (79,6 milions d'euros) and in immobiliàries and entrepreneurship activities (14,9 milions). The document included a sector denominat economies domèstiques, amb 27,83 milions d'euros, in which s'inclou l'impacte econòmic induït, és a dir, l'efecte arrossegament that generates salaries on the selves d'empreses i el It affects the consumption. Finalment, l'estudi reflecteix two humidor capitalists, is to dir, l'contribution to the meeting of the visitors, that fixa between the 60 milions d'euros that the visitors are ready to pay in entrades i els 70 milions that would cost the training imparted if it is donated in reglares centers. A reference center for climate change and innovation The Museu de les Ciències is to become, in the end, a special center for the research and dissemination of climate change and the impact of artificial intelligence in areas such as robotic Segons has detailed the secretary autonomy of Turisme i president of Cacsa, Francesc Colomer, is a tracta d'd'a stratègia to 20 years elaborated per to insert the museum center "in the relat of the modernity and in the system of the innovation of the Comunitat Valenciana of dissemination and scientific rigor. " As explained, the equipment of the complex tea the need to "not manage inèrcies", but to govern "mirant al futur, interpretant transformacions that ocorren in the món, observant que fan altres museístics i tendències" to anticipate -Get them. The general director of Cacsa, Enrique Vidal, will concretize them "great idees" per afer of the Museu de les Ciències a reference center of climatic canvi. D'un banda, create a center d'estudis de la sostenibilitat planetària, in which s'inclou l'abordatge del canvi climàtic, i per a altre, a altre sobre l'impact de la intel·ligència artificial i de la robòtica .
There are a number of conclusions we can draw.
Santiago Calatrava, the principle architect of the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias in València, is probable the person who has best married the disciplines of architecture and structural engineering. Some say he has revived the role of the engineer as a proactive designer in the tradition of Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel. And it is said that his often monumental, exuberant and even heroic designs has also reinvigorated the concept of public works as symbols of urban pride.