The City of Arts and Sciences – Valencia
This is the signature masterpiece for Santiago Calatrava, a Valencian-born architect/sculptor/engineer. Also simply known as the”CAC”, it is a unique complex built in the bed of the infilled Turia River to showcase science, technology, nature and art in a number of breathtaking futuristic “space-age” buildings and structures constructed over 1996-2008:
- The Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia (opera house and cultural centre);
- The Hemisfèric (IMAX cinema and planetarium);
- The Umbracle (landscaped garden entrance covering a car park);
- The Principe Felipe Science Museum (innovative centre of science);
- The Àgora(a covered multifunctional event space);
- Puente de l’Assut de l’Or (a cable-stayed suspension road bridge); and
- L’Oceanographic (the largest aquarium in Europe) designed by Felix Candela.
Although listed as one of the 12 monumental treasures of Spain, the CAC has not been without controversy. It has been associated with poor financial management, massive budget over runs (originally estimated to cost €300 million, it cost more than €1.2 billion to construct), poor design, structural failure and even flooding! Ongoing repayments are still being made and repairs, modifications and upkeep is further placing the regional economy under a large debt burden.
Perhaps as a sign of economic austerity, when I went to do a night shoot I found the whole of the CAC complex cloaked in darkness, as not a single light was lit (thus dashing any hope I had of photographing some spectacular night scenes)!
Controversy aside, the architect has integrated engineering and art to produce spectacularly monumental works of architecture. He has also designed the roof or the Athens Olympic Stadium, the famous “Turning Torso” tower in Sweden, a number of airports and train stations and most recently won the commission to design the World Trade Centre Transportation Hub, New York.