For defensive purposes, the Romans founded Valencia on the banks of the Turia River, inland from the Mediterranean Sea. Two millennia later, in 1957, the city of Valencia suffered terribly from the worst flood in its history. “The flood which occurred on the 14th of October 1957, known as the Great Flood of Valencia, flooded large part of the city of Valencia, and produced a great deal of damage to both life and property. To prevent this from happening in the future, a diversion project was devised (Plan Sur de Valencia) and the river was divided in two at the western city limits. During floods, most of the water is diverted southwards along a new course that skirts the city, until it meets the Mediterranean. The old course of the river has been turned into a central green-space for the city, a cultural attraction known as the garden of the Turia… Marking the park’s eastern extreme is Valencia’s new City of Arts and Sciences.” — Wikipedia
Thus the City of Arts and Sciences sits in the old riverbed of the Turia River. “Designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela [L’Oceanografic (Oceanographic Park)], the project underwent the first stages of construction in July 1996 and the finished “city” 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 presented on October 9, 2005, Valencian Community Day.” — Wikipedia
The striking modern architecture, which appears to defy gravity and upends traditional engineering designs, is a hallmark of the engineering and architectural brilliance of the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who was born and educated in Valencia.
The Hemisferic is a unique and spectacular building that represents a large human eye, the eye of wisdom. It houses a large dome screen that forms the largest auditorium in Spain with three projection systems (including IMAX)
The Science Museum is an interactive space in which visitors participate in the exhibits to learn more about science.
Here the Hemisferic (with the Opera House behind it) looks like the American Space Shuttle, nosing up to the arches of the Science Museum.
Sketch artists, painters and photographers were all having a “field day” walking around the City of Arts and Sciences and contemplating the amazing beauty of the Calatrava designs and the interactions of the buildings and spaces.
The graceful El Pont de l’Assut de l’Or (suspension bridge) is a model of simplicity and striking design.
L’Umbracle is “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 (1,050 feet) long and 60 meters (197 feet) wide, located on the southern side of the complex.” — Wikipedia
L’Agora is “a covered plaza in which concerts and sporting events (such as the Valencia Open 500) are held. 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.” — Wikipedia
After walking around the City of Arts and Sciences and marveling at the architecture and interplay of the designs, as well as the good fortune of the city of Valencia to have the foresight after the devastating 1957 flood to reroute the river and dedicate the former river bed to a green parkway intersecting the heart of the city, we set off to enjoy lunch.
At the proper Spanish luncheon time of 3 p.m., we talked our way into the excellent Restaurant Submarino L’Oceanografic (Submarine Restaurant at the Oceanographic Park) — not knowing that reservations were required, in order to avoid paying the entrance fee to L’Oceanografic.
The whole Oceanografic park was designed by a colleague of Calatrava — Félix Candela — who also designed the amazing Submarino restaurant. The aquarium at L’Oceanografic is Europe’s largest.
From the park level, diners descend into the restaurant which is “underwater”. Surrounding the entire interior of the restaurant is a huge aquarium. The tables (and bar area) are adjacent to the curved glass of the aquarium, so while eating diners literally watch the fish (and rays and sharks — we did see one baby shark) swim by. The restaurant is an excellent bargain — we enjoyed a five “course” set menu. A wonderful wrap up — “under the sea” — to a delightful afternoon spent in the former river bed of the Turia River.