The City of Arts and Sciences, designed by Santiago Calatrava, is a large-scale urban recreation center for culture and science. Set in the old dried-up river bed of Turia, midway between the old city of Valencia and the coastal district of Nazaret, this city covers an area of 350,000 square meters.

The predominant idea of the project was to restore the neglected area of Valencia, as well as to provide a linear park that stretches through the city. The project would be one link in a chain that was designed to leap into the third millennium. The series of five buildings planned for this city will join the cultural axis linearity accompanying a sense of it and will provide an open and public space, also it will add features for the Valencians.

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Throughout almost two kilometers, the project has been the hallmark of unsurpassed Calatrava. Often as a ‘City Within a City’, the creation of the Valencian architect caused amazement and surprise. The project respects the traditions of the Mediterranean Sea and the light blue and white blend with the pseudo-futuristic architecture of the author. The old traditions of the city led to these monumental modern sculptures. Also, large bodies of water united all parties and gave a sense of work.

The City of Arts and Sciences consists of several places:

1. 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.

Cantilever slabs at different heights are joined by stairs hidden between the cover’s metal sides, 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 in 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.

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2. L’Umbracle (The Shade)

Located on the southern facade of the complex. The structure, known as ‘L’Umbracle’, is a promenade and a parking garage built within an open arcade, providing a modern reinvention of the winter garden. This is an elongated structure that forms an open-air space. Its interior includes all types of vegetation found in the area of Valencia as well as a tour of contemporary sculptures.

Its structure resembles a lattice, with a sequence of 55 fixed and 54 floating arches of metal. The maximum height from the bottom of the arches fixed to the floating key is 18 meters. The tour covers the floor with wood teak, a tropical wood suitable for installation in outdoor areas, as it supports the assault of wind and rain with minimum wear.

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3. L’Hemisferic (Planetarium)

This creation of Calatrava has become perhaps one of the most important landmarks of the City of Arts and Sciences. The distinct look like an eyeball has been placed at the center stage. It is located on the L’Umbracle and flanked by two rectangular ponds to the north and south.

L’Hemisferic houses technological and educational rooms, IMAX rooms, audio-visual, art rooms, and a planetarium. The building consists of a reinforced concrete structure except the casing, which is metal, based on a screen foundation and large slabs of a song. The area is composed of concrete gunite on a metal structure formed by meridians. The rigidity of the structure is achieved through reinforced concrete walls that enclose the area around the accessibility, and through the forging of the different floors and beams of the sloping terraces.

The metallic covering is composed of five arches cut section drawers which are supported on tripods at the ends of the reinforced concrete. The arches are linked together via profiles, laminated beams, and curved drawers.

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4. Science Museum Prince Felipe

It is 40,000 square meters on three floors. From the outside, its image appears to be the skeleton of a prehistoric animal or perhaps a huge whale.

The particularity of being an interactive museum of science makes it an exceptional place for youth and children. Unlike any other conventional museum, the late signs of ‘prohibited touching’ of each sample invite them to come and participate, learning in each of the interventions. 

Its design is based on the repetition of the asymmetric structure in the shape of ribs. These ribs are connected by metal white horizontal longitudinal elements that surround the front glass. As is often repeated in Calatrava’s designs, the structure is a protagonist and always in sight.

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5. Palacio de las Artes (Valencia Opera House)

Conceived as the final element in the City of Arts and Sciences complex, the Valencia Opera House has been designed as a series of seemingly random volumes, which become unified through their inclusion 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 emerging 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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6. L’Oceanografic

With a volume of 110,000 square meters, it became the largest European oceanographic and the third globally. The cover in the form of a water lily is the work of the architect Felix Candela. The building’s oceanographic emblem consists of hyperbolic paraboloids constructed in concrete. The shell surrounds the glass walls enclosing the volume.

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7. El Pont de l’Assut de l’Or

It is a suspension bridge that connects the south side with Minorca Street, whose 125 meters high pillar is the highest point in the city.

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8. L’Àgora

The Agora is a covered plaza and a space designed to hold a variety of events such as concerts, performances, exhibitions, conventions, a staging of congresses, and international sports meetings. Many important events have been held in this plazalike the Freestyle Burn Spanish Cup in 2010 and the Christmas Special Program.

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Through this structure, it could be concluded that Calatrava’s vocabulary is rooted in a sense of design and engineering which precedes more from within than from an imposed and dysfunctional artistic ambition.


Prachi Surana is a budding Architect, studying in the Final Year B. Arch at BNCA, Pune. She is a dreamer, believer, hard worker and believes in the power of the Good. Prachi spends her time reading, painting, travelling, writing and working on the Design Team for NASA, India.

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