I might have mentioned in an earlier post that we have come to love our walk through the Arts and Sciences Park and the gardens in the old riverbed of the Turia. It is somewhere we take all our guests so I have delayed posting too many photos of it so that it didn’t spoil things for later visitors. But, barring any unexpected last minute guests [or unexpected problems which result in us staying longer….please no] then it is time to share with you the delights of this small part of Valencia.
The City of Arts and Sciences, an impressive example of modern architecture, is comprised of six different areas designed, in the main, by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava.
The first area, and the only one designed by a different architect – Félix Candela, is the “Oceanografic” which is the largest aquarium in Europe with 110,000 square meters and 42 million litres of water. It was built in the shape of a water lily and each building represents different aquatic environments including the Mediterranean, Wetlands, Temperate and Tropical Seas, Oceans, the Antarctic, the Arctic, Islands and the Red Sea. It is home to over 500 different aquatic species and also wetland birds.
Given that we have been lucky enough to see much of the sea life contained within it in their natural habitats we haven’t actually visited the oceanographic though, judging by the queues seen on several occasions, many people do.
The next building is the Ágora. This was apparently seen as the new icon of the City of Arts and Sciences – a versatile space in which to hold varied events.
As far as I can make out by “reading between the lines”, it has been a rather controversial addition to the park. Constructed between 2005 and 2009 it opened in a partially unfinished state but was capable of holding events such as large tennis tournaments. However, when commissioned by the private company who were to run the building and organise events, another architect declared it structurally suspect both inside and out. By this stage it had cost €96 million, with the original architect still requiring somewhere between €10-22 million to complete the retractable roof. City planners said No and the building was “abandoned”.
During our stay in Valencia there has been scaffolding all round it and some work does seem to be being done so whether funds have now been found and it will, one day, open again I don’t know.
Whilst on the subject of money and mismanagement – some would say that the whole park has been a drain on resources. The original budget was €300 million and the final cost approx €900 million. However, I can think of lots of projects and buildings which go over budget and, in its defence, I would say that this part of Valencia attracts lots of visitors and seems very well used by local people too. I am also sure that it brought some money into the city when it was used to film Dr Who! [Series 10, Episode 2 – if there are any particular Dr Who fans out there]
The first building in the “main park” is the Museo de Las Ciènces Príncipe Felipe – a very striking building which is 220 meters long, 80 meters wide and 55 meters high and resembles part of a whale skeleton.
The museum itself is orientated to children learning the sciences through experience, so apparently everything is graphically displayed, with huge texts and pics, experiments, buttons to touch and experience. We have been in the building, but only on the ground floor, when we went to see the exhibition of the 2018 Niñots [about which you will hear more in my next blog].
The park is full of pools of water intersected by attractive streams.
Whilst we have been here, both the Valencia Full and Half Marathons have finished just outside the Science building with the final approach to the finish line being built on a platform over the water and spectator seating lining each side…..
When we first visited the park this pool contained 6 sculptures by Valencian born Manolo Valdés.
The giant heads were apparently influenced by traditions of Spanish painting and the history of art. They went on display in June and in mid-September they were put to a popular vote to decide which one should stay in Valencia. Which would you chose?
The winner was “La Pamela” who received 12,855 of the 41,538 votes.
Don’t really know what else to call them!
Along the southern edge of the park is L’Umbracle which was designed as an entrance to the City of Arts and Sciences and includes 55 fixed arches and 54 floating arches that stand 18 meters high.
It is 320 meters long and 60 meters wide, and encloses a landscaped walk with plant species indigenous to Valencia [such as fig marigold, “spanish flags”, rosemary, lavender, honeysuckle, bougainvillea and palms].
I certainly haven’t counted but there are supposed to be over 230 large trees, 42 different varieties of shrub and 5,500 ground cover plants. Birds fly through the trees – the loudest, but most difficult to spot, being the parakeets.
Alongside the L’Umbracle runs “The Walk of the Sculptures”….
This contains a Laserium, Planetarium and IMAX cinema. The building is meant to resemble a giant eye that opens to access the surrounding water pool. The bottom of the pool is glass, creating the illusion of the eye as a whole
Finally in the main park is El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía – the Opera house and performing arts centre.
Measuring over 70 metres in height, the Palau de les Arts is divided into four separate halls. It is here that we saw the ballet “Carmen”.
From this point the gardens of the Turia wend their way around the city. In total the reclaimed riverbed is 9km long. Within the gardens is a children’s play park where “Gulliver” lies waiting for children to clamber all over him, a skate/scooter park and a separate roller park, café’s, football and rugby fields, athletics track and baseball ground, separate walkways for runners(¡) and a cycle path so that strollers, on their designated path, can wander in peace and no activity impinges on the other. It is all extremely well designed and organised.
Another building found in the Turia is the Palau de la Musíca…
… the home of the Valencian Orchestra who we went to see performing Tchaikovsky. On two other occasions we saw, firstly, a performance by two modern jazz pianists [more Mike’s taste than mine] and, secondly, the Glenn Miller Orchestra [surprisingly enough – more my taste than his!].
Again, as in the Arts and Sciences Park, water is a particular feature.
a white cable stayed bridge situated between El Museu de les Ciències and L’Agora. The tower of the bridge, at 125 meters, is the highest point in the city. For reasons which may be obvious, it is commonly known as “The Harp”
Both this and the other bridge in the Arts and Sciences Park – Puente de Monteolivete – were also designed by Calatrava….
Traditionally known as “La Peineta” (an ornamental comb) on account of its unique shape, it is built in high-tensile steel and is set on one single span, with a 14-metre high arch running from one end to the other.
One of the most famous bridges is the Puente del Mar.
Surrounded by palm trees, it was rebuilt after flooding in 1591 that destroyed the simple wooden bridge that stood in its place, and for centuries it was the natural route connecting the city with the port. In 1933, the Puente de la Mar was closed to traffic and has remained pedestrian only ever since.
Their statues replaced the original images of San Vicent Ferrer, San Vicente Màrtir and Sant Joan Baptista which were all destroyed during the Spanish Civil war. Statues of the first two saints can still be seen on the Puente de Real, a little further along the Turia, and again they sit on a gothic bridge which replaced the original wooden structure.
The Puente de Serranos is so named because it was the most obvious access point to the city for those people who travelled from Serrania. It was built in 1518, on nine segmental arches with breakwaters, cutwaters and parapets.
Whilst the Puente de Aragón may not be the most exciting bridge….
The Puente de las Flores (Flower Bridge), is a relatively new bridge dating from 2002, which is permanently decorated with beautiful flowers of all colours, which vary throughout the seasons. During the Christmas period, both ends were full of poinsettias.