Regions & Cities
So the new list of today's Wonders of the World is about to come out. I found it bizarre that the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia wasn't one of the contenders. Machu Picchu, Petra, Taj Mahal, the Great Wall, all undoubtedly wonders of the world, but how about thinking a little outside of the box?
The Hemispheric is followed by the Museum of Sciences - a giant intermesh of frames with claws and thorns sticking out of it in tidy rows. At 50m high this structure houses three huge floors of interactive science exhibitions.
These last two structures are bordered by L'Umbracle - a tube of a futuristic greenhouse with a tropical promenade inside and rows of decorative ceramic vents all along it. It is good to know where we will keep the remaining greenery in two or three hundred years.
Last comes the Oceanographic - a complex of smaller structures that loosely resemble giant seashells, grouped around and across a water reservoir. Oceanographic is a marine park, with thousands of species from all marine ecosystems of the world. The bulk of the complex is actually underground (or, rather, underwater), while the buildings serve as entry points, infrastructure containers and some also display surface ecosystems.
As a matter of fact, a sixth structure is in planning, which is why the area is still not totally clear of construction work. It will be an auditorium for fairs and social events, roughly speaking a high dome, but this is as far as I can go as I have run out of words to describe Calatrava, and on this particular one I simply have to give up.
In addition, Valencia makes full use of the City of Arts and Sciences for various public events - from New Year celebrations to music festivals. The incredible light shows here match the architecture and make it a simply unforgettable experience. When the crowds gather amongst these strange white shapes that reflect the sounds of music in all directions over the water reservoirs while stunning the eye with futuristic light shows… it is a true glimpse into the cyber-race of tomorrow.
When you walk around the City of Arts and Sciences your fantasy runs wild. This is what the Earth might look like in a couple of centuries. This can also easily be a base somewhere on a distant planet, way after the initial landing - the Museum does look like it could be an artificial biosphere, the Hemispheric - a media / research centre, the Palau - a command tower and the Oceanographic - a complex of living quarters.
However, those fantasies are not even nearly as wild as what you start seeing when you know one curious fact about Calatrava. The architect bases his designs on skeletons - both human and animal.
When you look at the City of Arts and Sciences with this fact in mind your fantasy turns insane. The perfectly white regular frames glisten in the sun and everything makes sense now, but Christ… what are these creatures whose remains you see on this intergalactic graveyard?
The Oceanographic must be what it first appears as - a handful of mollusk shells. God forbid coming across those mollusks though, because either of them could easily swallow a truck.
The Hemispheric resembles a shell of some gigantic turtle-like creature and the Palau… the Palau is most definitely a skull, albeit from such a strange creature that it is hard to imagine what it would look like. It would have eyes on the sides, like a rabbit, but taking up most of the head. It also has a crest over the top of the head. And if only the skull is 70m high… whatever this creature is, it could crush T-Rex with a flick of its little finger, if it has any.
Visiting the City of Arts and Sciences is a thoroughly satisfying experience for any type of traveler without exception. That most luring human craving, the "never seen before" factor hits you with so much force that the crater of the impact will remain in your memory for a very long time, whoever you are.
So that is why I am a little disappointed the City if Arts and Sciences wasn't selected for the Wonders of the World contest. The Sydney Opera House has, yet it doesn't have a half of what the City sports. But then, I've just remembered - when they were selecting, the City of Arts and Sciences still had some bulldozers on site. Well, never mind, I guess in a couple of millennia it may get another opportunity, and it will probably win - as by then it will be sufficiently ancient. "The first-ever Wonder of the Cyber-Age", if it doesn't get bombed by aliens first.
Alex Welsh is the webmaster of ValenciaValencia.com - an independent resource on travelling in Valencia, Spain
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