The Souljourner’s Travels: Something Old and Something New in Valencia, Spain – Part 1

 

Photography by Courtany Schick

València, España, as it is said in Valenciano, is a city that is as captivating as its name sounds. Although Valencian is technically a dialect of Català (Catalan), a language influenced fundamentally by French and Spanish, many people from the region consider it a distinct language. But the spoken language isn’t the only thing that sets Valencia apart.

An architectural marvel of modern day, Valencia’s Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències (City of Arts and Sciences) speaks to all who visit through a visual language. The symbols, details and designs are futuristic yet primordial, aspirational yet familiar and convey vision and reflection at every turn.

Constructed from the beliefs, beauty and soul of people, architecture and design are mechanisms with the power to communicate culture and connect community. The avant-garde complex, also called the ‘City Within a City’, is a state-of-the-art fantasy world envisioned by the mind of Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, costing ~$900 million, nearly three times the initial budget. Alongside Barcelona's Sagrada Familia and Granada's Alhambra, the City of Arts and Sciences is 1 of the 12 Treasures of Spain, energetically imbued with Spanish spirit.

Water weaves through and surrounds the City of Arts and Sciences’ 86 acres. The aqua oasis reflecting on the pale, pearly structures reminds me of the legendary island of Atlantis, known notably due to Plato. In lore, the lost city is said to have sunken into the sea in one day and one night. Perhaps it’s buried beneath silt and sea, but more likely, Atlantis exists as metaphor. For Plato, Atlantis represented a citizen’s fall away from law and order into corruption.  If a metaphorical city can fall in a day, I like believing a metaphorical city too can rise in one.  Built in just under a decade, after breaking ground in June of 1996, the City of Arts and Sciences contains seven structures. All are named in Valencian, including the  El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía  (The Queen Sofía Palace of the Arts);  L'Hemisfèric  (The Hemisfèric);  L'Umbracle  (referring to a shaded place, this word does not have a direct English translation);  El Pont de l'Assut de l'Or  (Serreria Bridge);  L'Àgora  (The Agora);  L'Oceanografic  (The Oceanarium) by Felix Candela, which houses Europe’s largest aquarium; and,  El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe  (Príncipe Felipe Science Museum) whose hands-on philosophy is “Not touching is prohibited.”  On the left above, sleek and striking, the Queen Sofía Palace of the Arts is an opera hall and performance arts center. To the right, the Hemisfèric   is home to an IMAX cinema, planetarium and laserium and was the first building completed in the complex in 1998.

Water weaves through and surrounds the City of Arts and Sciences’ 86 acres. The aqua oasis reflecting on the pale, pearly structures reminds me of the legendary island of Atlantis, known notably due to Plato. In lore, the lost city is said to have sunken into the sea in one day and one night. Perhaps it’s buried beneath silt and sea, but more likely, Atlantis exists as metaphor. For Plato, Atlantis represented a citizen’s fall away from law and order into corruption.

If a metaphorical city can fall in a day, I like believing a metaphorical city too can rise in one.

Built in just under a decade, after breaking ground in June of 1996, the City of Arts and Sciences contains seven structures. All are named in Valencian, including the El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía (The Queen Sofía Palace of the Arts); L'Hemisfèric (The Hemisfèric); L'Umbracle (referring to a shaded place, this word does not have a direct English translation); El Pont de l'Assut de l'Or (Serreria Bridge); L'Àgora (The Agora); L'Oceanografic (The Oceanarium) by Felix Candela, which houses Europe’s largest aquarium; and, El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe (Príncipe Felipe Science Museum) whose hands-on philosophy is “Not touching is prohibited.”

On the left above, sleek and striking, the Queen Sofía Palace of the Arts is an opera hall and performance arts center. To the right, the Hemisfèric is home to an IMAX cinema, planetarium and laserium and was the first building completed in the complex in 1998.

On this side of the Hemisfèric, the entrance looks to me as unfurled wings ready to take flight into the sky upon a smooth runway. From the other side, it’s made to look like a human eye open to the world, the “Eye of Wisdom.”  Dan Wiklund  illustrates this well through  reflection on the water at night . Eye-catching, indeed! With an IMAX theater and full dome planetarium, the Hemisfèric makes looking good look good.

On this side of the Hemisfèric, the entrance looks to me as unfurled wings ready to take flight into the sky upon a smooth runway. From the other side, it’s made to look like a human eye open to the world, the “Eye of Wisdom.” Dan Wiklund illustrates this well through reflection on the water at night. Eye-catching, indeed! With an IMAX theater and full dome planetarium, the Hemisfèric makes looking good look good.

Glittering, the stained glass of the bridge’s wide base catches the light. On the right, the white webbed support beams reflect onto the rippling pool of shimmering water; on the left,  a sculpture by Tony Cragg  bursts through the surface.  Seeing other photographers’ images is how I knew I wanted to visit. I highly recommend eyeing the  360° aerial views of this extraordinary place  on AirPano;  wide shots illustrating the enormity of the complex  by Antoine Barthelemy;  spectacular, inventive details  by Sebastian Weiss; and,  a fantastic photo journal of the City of Arts and Sciences and greater Valencia  by Stefano Buonamici. In recent years, the city appeared in an episode of Doctor Who and the film Tomorrowland.

Glittering, the stained glass of the bridge’s wide base catches the light. On the right, the white webbed support beams reflect onto the rippling pool of shimmering water; on the left, a sculpture by Tony Cragg bursts through the surface.

Seeing other photographers’ images is how I knew I wanted to visit. I highly recommend eyeing the 360° aerial views of this extraordinary place on AirPano; wide shots illustrating the enormity of the complex by Antoine Barthelemy; spectacular, inventive details by Sebastian Weiss; and, a fantastic photo journal of the City of Arts and Sciences and greater Valencia by Stefano Buonamici. In recent years, the city appeared in an episode of Doctor Who and the film Tomorrowland.

The water’s aqua reflection soaks the underside of the bridge. While taking this photo, I felt in a state of flow, energized and in the zone. Exploring Calatrava’s relatable yet aspirational creation gave me something to be a part of and also pursue. This visionary place was created to inspire, delight and engage and—through our participation and appreciation of the details within—creates anew.

The water’s aqua reflection soaks the underside of the bridge. While taking this photo, I felt in a state of flow, energized and in the zone. Exploring Calatrava’s relatable yet aspirational creation gave me something to be a part of and also pursue. This visionary place was created to inspire, delight and engage and—through our participation and appreciation of the details within—creates anew.

In the foreground of the Palace of the Arts, catching the last of the day’s golden light, a Red Darling hibiscus flower casts a shadow of its stigma onto itself at dusk.  Just a few hours south of Barcelona and east of Spain’s landlocked bullseye, Madrid, the City of Arts and Sciences exists not only as a place of imagination and abstraction, but also as a setting rooted elementally in water, air and earth. The story told in the walls and wildlife of the City Within a City felt like home. As old as time, nature connects us to one another.  Truthfully, when I decided to visit, it was the result of me committing to attend the world’s largest food fight, La Tomatina, 45 minutes away in the small town of Buñol. In hindsight, the architecture in Valencia alone is reason enough to inspire a visit. Valencia also claims fame as the originator of the hearty dish  paella , traditionally cooked with what Valencians had: rabbit, chicken and snails (not seafood, and never sausage!) With a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its old town,   La Lonja de la Seda   (The Silk Exchange), you’d be remiss to pass up a visit to Valencia if you’re ever in the area.

In the foreground of the Palace of the Arts, catching the last of the day’s golden light, a Red Darling hibiscus flower casts a shadow of its stigma onto itself at dusk.

Just a few hours south of Barcelona and east of Spain’s landlocked bullseye, Madrid, the City of Arts and Sciences exists not only as a place of imagination and abstraction, but also as a setting rooted elementally in water, air and earth. The story told in the walls and wildlife of the City Within a City felt like home. As old as time, nature connects us to one another.

Truthfully, when I decided to visit, it was the result of me committing to attend the world’s largest food fight, La Tomatina, 45 minutes away in the small town of Buñol. In hindsight, the architecture in Valencia alone is reason enough to inspire a visit. Valencia also claims fame as the originator of the hearty dish paella, traditionally cooked with what Valencians had: rabbit, chicken and snails (not seafood, and never sausage!) With a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its old town, La Lonja de la Seda (The Silk Exchange), you’d be remiss to pass up a visit to Valencia if you’re ever in the area.

 
Courtany Schick