The ciudad de las artes y las ciencas is one of the main tourist attractions of Valencia. It was designed by the famous architect Santiago Calatrava in the 90s and the last building was finished in 2009. It’s a cultural and architectural complex and it’s also one of the 12 treasures of Spain.
The complex consists of multiple buildings: L’Hemisfèric, El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe, L’Umbracle, L’Oceanogràfic, El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, El Pont de l’Assut de l’Or and L’Àgora.
L’Hemisfèric is currently a cinema, planetarium and a laserium. It’s modelled after an eye, as you can see by the almond-shaped transparent structure with a dome in the middle, which could be seen as the iris of the eye. El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe is a science museum that is inspired by the skeleton of a whale. With its 42.000 square metres, of which 26.000 are exhibition space, it’s the largest exhibition building in Spain.
L’Umbracle is an outdoor art gallery. It’s an open construction that consists of 55 fixed and 54 floating arches. L’Oceanogràfic is a huge aquarium. The building looks a little bit like a water lilly and the glitters on the facade make it look beautiful when it’s sunny.
El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia is currently an opera house. Fun fact: the building weighs over 3000 tons! The roof is quite special, as it appears to float over the building. El Pont de l’Assut de l’Or is a bridge in the middle of the complex and with its 125 metres high, it’s the highest point of Valencia. And L’Agora is a blue building in which sometimes sports events are held.
The cost of the ciudad de las artes y las ciencas was huge. It was originally estimated to cost about 308 million euros and of course that’s already a huge amount of money. But El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia alone already exceeded this budget, costing 382,5 million euros. The architects kept asking for more and more money and not wanting an unfinished project in the middle of the city, the government had no other choice than to allow it. Eventually, the project has cost 1282 million euros, so more than a billion, which is more than four times as much as was budgeted. And this was only for the construction. The buildings are going to cost even more in the near future, because the restauration cost will also be huge. The blue ornamental tiles of L’Agora are already starting to fall off.
To some, this came as no surprise, because the main architect, Santiago Calatrava (he designed all buildings except L’Oceanogràfic), has a reputation of exceeding the budget by far. It is said that he doesn’t really care about how much his buildings cost, as long as they look exactly how he envisioned them. He is a typical example of a ‘starchitect’. This means that a city can attract lots of tourists by hiring a famous architect who designs a huge special building.
In this case, it definitely worked. The ciudad de las artes y las ciencas is famous and attracts lots of tourists to Valencia. But I doubt if that extra tourism could ever repay the huge cost of this architectural complex.