Monday, March 15, 2010

Valencia, Comunidad Valenciana [Part II of II: The Modern City]

In 1957, due to a catastrophic overflowing of the Turia River which cuts across Valencia, the city suffered a devastating flood that destroyed everything close to the banks. Following that tragic incident, the course of the river was diverted, marking the turning point for Valéncia, as the river bed was converted into what’s now referred to as the Turia Gardens.

In their remedy to prevent themselves from future flooding, they have at the same time, significantly & successfully transformed their city’s landscape into something amazing. It is this very transformation that heralded Valencia into its new, modern era. Indeed, one can say that the city’s past misfortune had steered it towards its present prosperity.

The Turia Gardens, as the name suggests, thus consist of a 150m wide and 9km long stretch of garden promenade which provided the foundation for many recreational facilities. Different sections of the city’s new green zone are designated for various purposes. There are lakes and lush green spaces for relaxation, a stadium for sports, and vacant spaces for ad hoc performances or the travelling circus. Even the bridges that continue to exist over the river bed each have their own distinct character which add interest to the whole garden project.

Above: Puente del Reino, otherwise known as the gothic 'Devil's Bridge' flanked by gargoyles on all four corners.

Some of the more notable areas of the gardens include the huge glass enclosed concert hall called Palau de la Música with a musical fountain in front of it, as well as the very interesting Gulliver’s Park playground that was built inspired by the story of Gulliver’s Travels, in the form of a giant tied by ropes to the ground (you can actually see the top view of the whole giant lying on the playground on Google map!).

Above: Gulliver's Park. Image taken from Google Map.

However, it is without a doubt that it is the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences that steals the show hands down. The huge plot of land near the tail end of the river bed is the birth place of the massive project spearheaded by Valencian architect, Santiago Calatrava. The vision he had for his very own hometown was for "science, culture and leisure to come together in an environment marked by water and vegetation". This concept was brought to life in a complex with 5 individual state-of-the-art buildings, each for a specific purpose. (A 6th building called the 'L’Ágora' was still under construction when I was there. It's supposed to be a multi-functional space for conferences & events.)

Above: L’Hemisféric.
Resembling a human eye, this ‘eye-catching’ building is an IMAX theatre that houses 2 projection systems on a dome screen.

Above: Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia.

An avant-garde opera house that’s equipped with the latest technology, taking the experience of opera and theatrical entertainment to a whole new level.

Above: Museo de las Ciencias Príncipe Felipe.

Inside this skeleton-like structure is a science museum which encourages visitors to touch and play around with the exhibits for a hands-on experience.

Above: L’Umbracle.
This stretch of portico is a garden walkway that sits above the car park of the complex.

Above: L’Oceanográfico.

This is one awesome aquarium that is apparently the largest in Europe. It is said to be home to 45,000 specimens of 500 different species, kept in various different zones that replicate some of the world’s diverse marine ecosystems.

The architecture and facilities within the entire City of Arts & Sciences complex is truly innovative & awe-inspiring. It is certainly not to be missed! To find out more, click here.

Heading further down the course of the Turia river bed will inevitably lead us to the mouth which opens up to the Mediterranean Sea. Here is of course, where you can find Valencia’s beach as well as its port and the world famous America’s Cup sailing event venue.

Above: Playa de la Malvarrosa

Above: The Veles e Vents (Sails & Winds) pavilion built for observing regatta action.

Above: The Alinghi Yacht Club located at Port America’s Cup.

Finally, this coming Friday is the day of San Jose & also Fathers' Day as celebrated in some parts of Spain such as Valencia. So Happy Fathers' Day in advance to all Fathers out there!

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