I’m typically not much of an architecture guy, but in both Valencia and Barcelona, there were a couple of buildings with which I fell in love. The common theme was that the buildings seemed to re-imagine gothic architecture in graceful modern forms.
First up was the Ciutat de les Artes. It’s a series of buildings at the end of what used to be the river Turia. In the ’80 the Turia was diverted to prevent flooding, and the riverbed became a massive park running through the whole city. The 8 buildings they put up at the end of the park make you wonder what other cities would do if they suddenly discovered a massive stretch of public land in the middle of the town. I didn’t find the rest of Valencia that impressive, but these buildings alone make the city a reasonable tourist destination. We spent a whole day wandering through them and then exploring Oceanografic, the largest aquarium in Europe which is at the end of the Ciutat de les Artes.
The picture above is the back side of the Science Museum. Meant to evoke a whale skeleton, it was the building that most invoked gothic style to me, just a long series of flying buttresses propping up a large lofty ceiling. Below on the left, you see the same building at night from the other direction with El Puente de l’Assut de l’Or (bridge and tallest structure int he city) and L’Àgora (covered plaza for things like tennis tournaments). To the right is the Hemispheric, which houses a wicked wrap around IMAX screen with headsets that cater to almost any language preference.
Further up the coast in Barcelona the great architecture continued at the Sagrada Familia, the second place site that claimed to be the most visited destination in Spain. This cathedral, which is very much still a building site, is the final masterpiece of the blindingly brilliant Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi died while construction was slowing and the building was only a fraction complete. Then shortly after his death all the plans and models were destroyed in the Spanish Civil War. Construction is now back on pace, and thanks in no small part to healthy tourist revenues, the building is back on track to be finished sometime in the next half century or so. You can see in the pictures below (which are both rather poor, apologies) that the style is imagining gothic cathedral styles in natural forms. So the pillars become trees, and the vaulted ceilings are a bed of flowers. It’s an impressive place, and I hope to be able to go back and see it when it’s finished. In the meantime it’s well worth the long queue and high price to wander around. Make sure to get the audio guide and take the lift to the top of the spires.
So in the end, many thanks to Spain and your beautiful public architecture. I know I missed some of the great ones, like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, but glad for the splendors I was able to enjoy.