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City of Arts and Sciences
Santiago Calatrava

January 14, 2002 /

Valencia, Spain

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Model photo courtesy Santiago Calatrava Archive

The City of Arts and Sciences, developed by Santiago Calatrava, is a large-scale urban recreation center for culture and science.

Set in the old dried-up river bed of the Turia, midway between the old city of Valencia and the coastal district of Nazaret, the City of Arts and Sciences covers an area of 350,000 square meters.

Following a disastrous flood in 1957, the river was diverted along a canal to the south of the city, and the dried-out riverbed planted as a 7 kilometer long promenade through the center of the city.

L'Hemisfèric (Planetarium) was the first element to be opened to the public in April 1998. The Science Museum Principe Felipe opened in 2000, L'Umbracle (Parking Structure) opened in 2001, the Palacio de las Artes, opened in 2003. Calatrava's use of pure white concrete and Gaudiesque fragments of shattered tiles, an important Valencian industry, tie all the structures together as a whole.

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As the site is close to the sea, and Valencia is so dry, I decided to make water a major element for the whole site using it as a mirror for the architecture.

/Santiago Calatrava

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The two principle buildings, the L'Hemisfèric and the The Science Museum Principe Felipe, are organized around a raised promenade running from the base of the Palacio de las Artes along the defining, longitudinal axis of the site, and offering views out towards the sea.

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Model photo courtesy Santiago Calatrava Archive

Santiago Calatrava
L'Hemisfèric (Planetarium)

L'Hemisfèric (Planetarium), the distinctive eye-shaped construction designed by Santiago Calatrava, was the first element to be opened to the public in the City of Arts and Sciences.

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The "pupil" is the hemispherical dome of the IMAX Theater, which is transformed into a globe through its reflection in the pool. The concrete socket of the eye incorporates elongated aluminium awnings that differ in length and fold upwards collectively, or as individual units, to form a brise-soleil roof that opens along the curved central axis of the eye shape. The concrete encasement has been extended upwards, and the brise-soleil narrowed and replaced by a system of slats mounted on each side of pivoting, to imitate the structure of a feather.

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The globe of L'Hemisfèric (the Planetarium), which also houses the Omnimax theater, is roofed over by an elliptical shell structure and placed within an elliptical pod that cradles it like the pupil of an eye.

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Drawing courtesy Santiago CalatravaPlancity_of_arts_and_sciences_12.jpg
Drawing courtesy Santiago Calatrava
Section

Santiago Calatrava
Science Museum Principe Felipe

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Photo courtesy Santiago Calatrava Archive
The Science Museum is a spatial tour de force, like the grand exhibition pavilions of the past, it is a longitudinal building, resembling a prehistoric-skeleton, created from the modular development of transverse sections that repeat along the length of the site.

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The white concrete supporting framework of the south facade is filled with glass; the north facade is a continuous glass-and-steel curtain along the building's full length.

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The symmetrical ends of the building are braced firmly by triangulated structures which also mark the entrances.

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Photo courtesy Santiago Calatrava Archive
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The 40 meter high north hall has the proportions of a soaring Gothic cathedral nave with flying ribs and a waving glass wall running the full length of the building. Five linearly organized concrete "trees" branch out to support the connection line between roof and facade on a scale that permits the integration of service cores and lifts.

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Santiago Calatrava
L'Umbracle (Parking Structure)

Located on the Southern facade of the complex the structure, known as L'Umbracle, is a promenade and parking garage built within an open arcade, providing a contemporary reinvention of the winter garden. 

The upper part comprises a long panoramic promenade, with a tree-lined garden, from where there is a superb view of the Complex as a whole.

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Santiago Calatrava
Palacio de las Artes

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Photo courtesy Santiago Calatrava Archive
Conceived as the final element in the City of Arts and Sciences complex, the Valencia Opera House (Palacio de las Artes) has been designed as a series of apparently random volumes, which become unified through their enclosure within two symmetrical, cut-away concrete shells. These forms are crowned by a sweeping steel sheath, which projects axially from the entrance concourse and extends over the uppermost contours of the curvilinear envelope. The resulting structure defines the identity of the Opera House, dramatically enhancing its symbolic and dynamic effect within the landscape, while offering protection to the terraces and facilities beneath.

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Photo courtesy Santiago Calatrava Archive
The different volumes of the building are stacked between horizontal promenade decks, which cantilever off the side of the structure. The fully air-conditioned auditorium, located within the 1300 seat opera house, occupies the central core. This core is set within an acoustically shaped shell embedded within the cluster.

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Photo courtesy Santiago Calatrava Archive
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Photo courtesy Santiago Calatrava Archive
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Model photo courtesy Santiago Calatrava Archive
The facilities are connected to a music school situated along the southern periphery of the site, which also houses smaller, individual practice spaces and administration areas.

Facts about City of Arts and Sciences

L'Hemisfèric (Planetarium)

Completed: 1998

Science Museum Principe Felipe

Total area: 41,000 m2
Completed: 2001

L'Umbracle (Parking Structure)

Surface area: 50,860 m2
Completed: 2001

Palacio de las Artes

Total area: 44,150 m2
Completed: 2003

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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