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Frontal view of opened L'Hemisfèric
Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències (2008)

The City of Arts and Sciences (Valencian: Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències [siwˈtad de les ˈaɾts i les siˈɛ]; Spanish: Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias [θjuˈðtes i las ˈθjenθjas]) is an entertainment-based cultural and architectural complex in the city of Valencia, Spain. It is the most important modern tourist destination in the city of Valencia and one of the 12 Treasures of Spain.

The City of Arts and Sciences is situated at the end of the former riverbed of the river Turia, which was drained and rerouted after a catastrophic flood in 1957. The old riverbed was turned into a picturesque sunken park.

Designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela, the project began the first stages of construction in July 1996, and was inaugurated April 16, 1998 with the opening of L'Hemisfèric. The last great component of the City of Arts and Sciences, El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, was inaugurated on October 9, 2005, Valencian Community Day.

Originally budgeted at €300 million, it has cost nearly three times the initial expected cost.[1]



The complex is made up of the following buildings, in order of their inauguration:

  • L'Hemisfèric (1998) — an IMAX Cinema, planetarium and laserium. The building is meant to resemble a giant eye, and has an approximate surface of 13,000 m². The Hemesferic also known as the planetarium or the "eye of knowledge," is the centerpiece of the City of Arts and Sciences. It was the first building completed in 1998. Its design resembles an eyelid that opens to access the surrounding water pool. The bottom of the pool is glass, creating the illusion of the eye as a whole. This planetarium is a half-sphere composed of concrete 110 meters long and 55.5 meters wide. The shutter is built of elongated aluminum awnings that fold upward collectively to form a brise soleil roof that opens along the curved axis of the eye. It opens to reveal the dome, the "iris" of the eye, which is the Ominax theater. The City of Arts and Sciences is divided in half by a set of stairs that descend into the vaulted concrete lobby. The underground spaces are illuminated with the use of translucent glass panels within the walking path. The transparent roof is supported by concrete arches that connect to the sunken gallery. There is a miraculous echo inside of the building and if two people stay on the two opposite pillars inside of the eye they can seamlessly speak with each other.
El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe
Interior of El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe
  • El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe (2000) — Is an interactive museum of science that resembles the skeleton of a whale. It occupies around 40,000 m² on three floors. The hotch-potch of exhibits is designed more for 'entertainment value' than for science education. Much of the ground floor is taken up by a basketball court sponsored by a local team and various companies. The building is made up of three floors of which 26,000 square meters is used for exhibitions. The first floor has a view of the Turia Garden that surrounds it; which is over 13,500 square meters of water. The second floor hosts "The Legacy of Science" exhibition by the researchers; Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Severo Ochoa y Jean Dausset. The third floor is known as the "Chromosome Forest" which shows the sequencing of human DNA. Also on this floor is the "Zero Gravity," the "Space Academy," and "Marvel Superheroes" exhibitions. The building's architecture is known for its geometry, structure, use of materials, and its design around nature. The building is about 42,000 square meter and 26,000 square meters of is exhibition space, which is currently the largest in Spain. It has 20,000 square meters of glass, 4,000 panes, 58,000 m³ of concrete, and 14.000 tons of steel. This magnificent building stands 220 meters long, 80 meters wide and 55 meters high.
L'Umbracle, built over a car park
Interior of L'Umbracle (2007)
  • L'Umbracle (2001) — an open structure enveloping a landscaped walk with plant species indigenous to Valencia (such as rockrose, lentisca, rosemary, lavender, honeysuckle, bougainvillea, palm tree). It harbors in its interior The Walk of the Sculptures, an outdoor art gallery with sculptures by contemporary artists. (Miquel de Navarre, Francesc Abbot, Yoko Ono and others). The Umbracle is also home to numerous free-standing sculptures surrounded by nature. It was designed as an entrance to the City of Arts and Sciences. It is 320 meters long and 60 meters wide, located on the southern side of the complex. It includes 55 fixed arches and 54 floating arches that stand 18 meters high. The plants displayed were carefully picked to change colour with each season. The garden includes 99 palm trees, 78 small palm trees, 62 bitter orange trees. There are 42 varieties of shrubs from the Region of Valencia including Cistus, Mastic (Pistacia lentiscus), Buddleia, Pampas grass (Cortaderia), and Plumbago. In the garden there are 16 species of Mirabilis jalapa, or the four-o'clock plant (beauty of the night). Honeysuckle and hanging Bougainvillea are two of the 450 climbing plants in the L'Umbracle. There also are 5,500 ground cover plants such as Lotus, Agatea (Fellicia amelloides), Spanish Flags, and Fig Marigolds. There are over a hundred aromatic plants including Rosemary and Lavender.
  • L'Oceanogràfic (2003) — an open-air oceanographic park, designed by Félix Candela. It is the largest oceanographic aquarium in Europe with 110,000 square meters and 42 million liters of water. It was built in the shape of a water lily and is the work of architect Félix Candela. Each building represents different aquatic environments including the Mediterranean, Wetlands, Temperate and Tropical Seas, Oceans, the Antarctic, the Arctic, Islands and the Ted Sea. This aquarium is a home to over 500 different species including dolphins, belugas, sawfish, jellyfish, starfish, sea urchins, walruses, sea lions, seals, penguins, turtles, sharks,and rays. It also inhabits wetland bird species.
El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía
  • El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia (2005) — an opera house and performing arts center. It contains four large rooms: a Main Room, Magisterial Classroom, Amphitheater and Theater of Camera. It is dedicated to music and the scenic arts. It is surrounded by 87,000 square meters of landscape and water, as well as 10,000 square meters of walking area. The Palau de Les Arts has four sections; the main hall, the master hall, the auditorium, and the Martin y Soler theatre. It holds many events such as opera, theatre and music in its auditoriums. Panoramic lifts and stairways connect platforms at different heights on the inside of the metallic frames of the building. The building has a metallic feather outer roof that rests on two supports and is 230 meters long and 70 meters high. One of the supports allows for part of the building to overhang. The building is supported by white concrete. Two laminated steel shells cover the building weighing over 3,000 tons. These shells are 163 meters wide and 163 meters long.
El Pont de l'Assut de l'Or
  • El Pont de l'Assut de l'Or (2008) — a white cable-stayed bridge crossing the dry Turia riverbed, connecting the south side with Minorca Street, in between El Museu de les Ciències and L'Agora. The tower of the bridge at 125 meters high is the highest point in the city.
  • L'Àgora (2009) — a covered plaza in which concerts and sporting events (such as the Valencia Open 500) are held.[2] The Agora is a space designed to hold a variety of events such as concerts, performances, exhibitions, conventions, staging of congresses, and international sports meetings. Many important events have been held in this building including the Freestyle Burn Spanish Cup in 2010 and the Christmas Special Program.
  • Torres de València — forming part of a project of the construction of three skyscrapers of 308, 266 and 220 m. The project has been put on hold and the possibilities that it will be finished are seen by many as doubtful.[citation needed]


Origins of the projectEdit

In 1989 the then president of the Valencian Autonomous Government, Joan Lerma, after a visit to the new Cité des sciences et l'industrie, in Paris, and through the then general director of planning and studies of the Presidency of the Generalitat Valenciana, Dr. José María Bernabé, officially commissioned the scientist Dr. Antonio Ten Ros, the writing of a first proposal for a City of Science and Technology for Valencia[3].

Dr. Ten Ros drew up a first draft, entitled "Vilanova, A City of Science for Valencia", which was officially presented to the Generalitat in May 1989. After that, he was formally commissioned, in 1990, the direction of a general draft, amounting to 92,650,000 pesetas (556,000 euros), to be managed by the University of Valencia. Antonio Ten Ros constituted a team of 56 scientists, museologists and designers, including the prof. José María López Piñero as responsible for the space "A walk through history". Ten Ros presented the draft, in 32 volumes, to President Lerma, in the Palace of the Generalitat, on December 21, 1991.

The "City of the Sciences" was the name that the autonomous government gave to the initiative, and plans included a 370m high communications tower, which would have been the third highest one in the world at that time; a planetarium; and the museum of science. The total price of the works was estimated to be about 25,000 million pesetas.

The project did however cause controversy. The Conservative Popular Party saw in the City of the Sciences a "work of the pharaohs" that would serve only to swell the ego of the Socialists, who were the driving forces behind the initiative. Later, several successive Popular Party governments continued and expanded the complex way beyond the original Socialist project at an enormous cost, heavily indebting the city.


In May 1991, the council approved the transfer of lands. Four months later the project was presented, designed by Santiago Calatrava. Construction began by the end of 1994.

The team that had designed the museum did not see eye to eye with the form in which Santiago Calatrava conceived the building. Therefore, a couple of changes were made.[citation needed]


In April 1998 the complex opened its doors to the public with L'Hemisfèric. Eleven months later, the president of Valencia, Eduardo Zaplana, inaugurated the Prince Felipe Museum of the Sciences, although the museum was not yet finished. The museum was opened to the public twenty months later. December 12, 2002 was the opening of L'Oceanographic, the largest aquarium built in Europe. Finally, on October 8, 2005 the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía was opened and became the opera house of Valencia.

Architects: Santiago Calatrava and Felix CandelaEdit

Santiago Calatrava was born in Valencia, Spain, on 28 July 1951. He is a qualified architect and engineer and also known for his artist skills in painting and sculpting. He attended the Art Academy in Valencia in the mid-1960s, then he earned a degree in architecture and a post graduate course in city planning at the Escuela Tecnica Superior de Arquitectura, studied civil engineering at the Federal Polytechnic University of Zurich, and participated in academic research investigating The Foldability of Space Frames. Calatrava's architecture is aimed to unite structure and movement. Early in his career, Calatrava was the winner to design Stadelhofen Station in Zurich. He was recognized for his achievement in creating poetics of movement and integrating public transportation in a natural setting and urban context. Another theme in his work was moving contraptions in his buildings. The dome for the Reichstag Conversion Competition in Berlin that open and closes like a flower. The Planetarium in the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia opens and closes like eyelids.

There is, however, a controversy as to the values his work brings its users, especially when observing the usability of public space surrounding his buildings.[citation needed]

Felix Candela was born on January 27, 1910 in Madrid Spain and died December 7, 1997. His architectural designs composed of reinforced concrete structures distinguished by thin, curved shells. His popularity sprung from his design, in collaboration with Jorge Gonzales Reyna, of the Cosmic Ray Pavilion in Mexico. He used his signature design of the reinforced concrete roof that varies in thickness from only 5/8 inch to 2 inches. He also built the church of La Virgin Milagrosa in Mexico City and the church of San Vicente de Paul. His designs consisted of warped-shell industrial buildings, thin-shell centenary, and barrel-vaulted factories and warehouses. Candela was also a teacher at Harvard University and University of Illinois. Felix Candela designed the underwater city, L'Oceanografic, located in the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia and is reminiscent of Antoni Gaudí work in Barcelona.

In popular cultureEdit

Some portions of the area were featured in the 2013 racing game Gran Turismo 6 as a photo location. Exterior scenes of the futuristic city in the 2015 film Tomorrowland were filmed around the City of Arts and Sciences.[4] In 2016 (broadcast in 2017) it was also used as a filming location in the British science-fiction television programme Doctor Who, appearing in the second episode of the tenth series, "Smile".[5]

Financial controversyEdit

The complex has also become for the left and the catalanist a symbol of profligate spending, financial mismanagement and waste, due to large cost overruns and a large debt burden that the region is struggling under.[6][7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Suzanne Daley, Santiago Calatrava Collects Critics as Well as Fans The New York Times, Sept. 24, 2013
  2. ^ Punto final a la Ciudad de las Artes - Valencia_Valencia - Valencia -
  3. ^ "Los comienzos". Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias.
  4. ^ "George Clooney's Tomorrowland Exists in Spain". The Huffington Post.
  5. ^ "Doctor Who: Series 10 filming in Valencia". DoctorWhoTV.
  6. ^ "Calatrava's Valencia Project Attracts the Ire of Spanish Politicians - Businessweek". Business Week. 2012-06-01. Retrieved 2013-02-16.
  7. ^ "Activists Offer Protest Tour Of Spain's Modern Ruins : NPR". NPR. 2013-02-16. Retrieved 2013-02-16.
  • Tzonis, Alexander. Santiago Calatrava: The Complete Works. New York: Rizzoli, 2004. Print.
  • Jodidio, Philip. Santiago Calatrava. Köln: Taschen, 1998. Print.
  • Sharp, Dennis. Santiago Calatrava. London: E & FN SPON, 1994. Print.

External linksEdit