A City Crowned by a Bat
“They drew near Valencia (…) Above all they praised the beauty of its women and its fresh cleanliness and charming language, which only Portuguese can compete with in being sweet and pleasant.” –Miguel de Cervantes (author of Don Quixote, on Joanot Martorell’s Tirant lo Blanc)
Tirant lo Blanc is one of the most influential romance’s to be published in medieval times. The romance written by a Valencian knight Joanot Martorell is seen as an influential writing of not only its time but also a major influence on both the classic Western Novel and Don Quixote. This chivalry novel lays a mystifying and mythical foundation for a city crowned by a bat.
Now I know what you are thinking and this isn’t Bruce Wayne city and no John Wayne doesn’t own a home here, but similar to the revival of both the Batman franchise and Western’s, Valencia the “city of strength and valour” is seeing a revival of its own. Once exclusively tied to industrial the third largest city in Spain is seeing a revitalization of its fabric in many different forms. The first thing that hits you when you arrive is the extreme contrast between mainstream modern architecture and a thriving medieval city core. This night and day contrast plays a major role in the city’s character and after the initial reaction you realize how cohesive this place actually becomes. Valencia is a place of food, economics, and an exceptional timeline in architecture.
To give you a better understanding of Valencia here is a brief explanation on how the city grew to today. First the walled medieval city was formed on the banks of the Turia River. Today twelve medieval gates surround the old city from the new city are a reminder of this chivalric period. After the rapid industrialization of Valencia’s port the walls were removed and the new city grew out into a concentric grid. The city continued to grow consistently and remained relatively docile till 1957 when the Turia River flooded and erased a whole band of Valencia’s suburbs. After the flooding the river was diverged to the south and the old riverbed was turned into a 7-kilometer park, incase of future flooding. The unfortunate event killed 81 people, but gave valuable insight into flood zone development, im looking at you New Orleans. Anyways at the terminal of the park lays the port and the modern icon of Valencia.
Top Left – Cannon Holes (Torre de Quart)
Top Right – Turia River Flooding 1957
Bottom Right – Jardines de Turia
Bottom Left – Nighttime Aerial of Valencia
Starting in the old city three things immediately become prevalent. First things first, people in Barcelona take note that the sidewalks you walk on everyday is not your pets dumping grounds and Valencia has apparently got the memo and it shows. Look down most streets in the old city of Valencia and you will notice just how clean they actually are, not the litter box that is Barcelona. Secondly, there is another refreshing thing you will notice, no tourist! Sure you might see the Gilligan’s stopping to get the Wikipedia photo of their dreams, but they aren’t rarely seen like the herds of cattle you see mooing at tourist traps on La Rambla in Barcelona. Finally, you will notice how open and breathable the streets are, which allows room for the restored facades of various architectural periods to shine. You immediately get a sense that this is a place that cares for its architecture and gives the proper space for it. At the heart of the Old City is the Valencia Catedral surrounded by two plazas, Plaza de La Virgen and Plaza de la Reina. The Catedral was consecrated in 1238 and is said to hold the most authentic cup used at the Last Supper. Sorry ladies you won’t find Indiana Jones here, but if you are looking for views then the Micalet (aka Tower) is the Holy Grail in Valencia. The Micalet allows for 360 degree views and a perspective that even the gods envy. Although be warned getting to the top is a p90x leg workout if I’ve ever seen one (i lost count after 250 steps and that was about halfway). It almost makes you wonder how in shape the bellboy had to be back in the day to have ring it every hour on the hour, although he didn’t have some juiced up trainer yell at him through the TV for an hour. After catching your breath and seeing the surroundings look toward the southeast and you will see the modern icon of Valencia, La Ciudad de Las Artes y Las Ciencias.
Top Left – Valencia Catedral and Plaza de Virgen
Top Right – Aerial of Plaza de Reina
Bottom Right – Sunset over Valencia
Bottom Left – Old City Square
Realizing its potential as major hub in not only Spain, but also Europe, in the early 1990’s Valencia decided to undertake a massive complex dedicated to boost its image in the realm of tourism. Designed by local architect Santiago Calatrava in the mid 1990’s, La Ciudad de Las Artes y Las Ciencias is a specimen of architecture, flora, and fauna straight out of the Jetson’s. Starting at the back of the complex is the Oceanografic, which is massive aquarium complex that is separated into various aquatic zones, such as Artic and Wetlands zones. This place is a great integration of futuristic architecture and zoo design as the complex flows together nicely from start to finish. Next is the Museo de Las Ciencias, which is a massive convention/exposition space that offers a plethora of activities from measuring your athletic abilities to brainpower games. Finally is the Hemisferic, or as I like to call it Darth Vader’s summer home, which comes complete with an I-Max theater. Sure I am sure that it was built to be a Disney World Destination Park, but this one is for grown ups, take that Mickey. Finally as an student in the design field it is amazing to see what happens when design and money to actually fund projects like these can produce, America take note, restrictions do not apply. Since these words can’t do this place justice here are photos of the complex to drool over.
Top Left – Hemisferic and Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia
Top Right – Museo de Las Ciencias Principe Felipe
Middle Left – Oceanografic
Middle Right – Agora
Bottom - Pano of Ciudad de Las Artes y Las Ciencias