A look inside the spectacular CaixaForum

Tourists from all over the world are flocking to the Spanish city of Valencia, following the opening of the CaixaForum, a new arts and exhibition center within the architectural complex of Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences.

The Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciencies (City of Arts and Sciences in Catalan) complex was first launched in 1996 with the intention of being a symbol of Valencia’s commitment to cultural tourism and modern architecture .

The project’s design gave local architect Santiago Calatrava worldwide fame, making him one of the top ten architects in the world today, alongside names like Normal Foster, Renzo Piano and Cesar Pelli.

What’s on in the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia?

A large exterior of the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia – AP Photos

The complex consists of six buildings which aim to bring culture to both tourists and locals, encouraging people to immerse themselves in a unique urban experience.

The Hemisferic, known as “The Eye of Wisdom”, was the first building to be completed in 1998. It represents a human eye open to the world, housing an IMAX cinema and a planetarium.

Next to it is the Queen Sofia opera house, an arts center that opened in 2005. Standing 70 meters high, the music center has positioned Valencia on the international arts circuit, especially when it comes to opera and theater performances.

The science museum, which opened in 2000, is the largest structure in the entire complex, with a large pond outside where you can paddle board.

Visitors can also enjoy the botanical garden, known as L’Umbracle, which is home to hundreds of native species of plants that change shape and color with each season.

The aquarium at the end of the complex, known as L’Oceanografic, is considered the largest marine center in Europe.

Valeri Zelixon, an Israeli tourist, says that when it comes to modern architecture, Spain is a top destination: “This is not our first venture into this type of modern architecture. We’ve been to Bilbao, for example, something different. We’ve been to Barcelona, ​​something different. This is something unique to Valencia. So, we decided to come and explore. It’s wonderful.”

Jeffrey Wang, a US tourist, is fascinated by the blend of old and new created by these sculptures: “It’s just amazing and unique. Coming here I haven’t seen anything like it. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s just beautiful.”

The architecture of the building L’Agora

Credit: Miguel Lorenzo

An internal shot of the CaixaForum building in Valencia – Credits: Miguel Lorenzo

Until recently, the reputation of the City of Arts and Sciences has been marred by failed attempts to make functional its tallest building and one of its most distinctive: the Agora building.

Finished in 2009, it opened as the venue for the ATP Valencia Open 500 tennis tournament, which was held every year until 2015. But it has remained empty ever since.

The 80-metre-high metal structure, resembling a pointed ellipse, was conceived as a covered public square to serve as a place of social gathering, as in the ancient Greek city.

The structure is a large arena featuring a high glass roof along the spine and a movable structure to control natural light from above.

The tall white structure, resembling the rib cage of a large cetacean, gives the building an organic shape from the inside, yet abstract and geometric on the outside.

Creation of the CaixaForum

Credit: Miguel Lorenzo

A shot from inside the CaixaForum in Valencia – Credits: Miguel Lorenzo

In 2018, the CaixaForum foundation, a cultural foundation of a large Spanish bank with multipurpose exhibition centers in several Spanish cities (including Barcelona, ​​Seville and Madrid), launched an architectural competition to build a new CaixaForum within the ‘Agora of Valencia.

Catalan architect Enric Ruiz-Geli was the winner with his project to create a multipurpose space housing, among other facilities, two exhibition halls and a 300-seat auditorium.

Construction started in 2018 and the brand new CaixaForum hosted inside L’Agora was inaugurated on 22 June 2022.

“I think it was like a hermit crab, standing next to the aquarium. An abandoned shell. Beautiful and blue, but empty. And CaixaForum is now the crab that inhabits it, to make it seem full of life,” explains Alvaro Borrás, the president of the CaixaForum Valencia.

“So, now we can circulate throughout the complex enjoying a cultural experience. And it’s also a good way to get rid of the negative feelings around this building that has been empty for so long,” he adds.

Alvaro Borrás explains the challenges Ruiz-Geli faced by creating something new and unique that blended into Calatrava’s existing building.

“I don’t think they’ve talked. But you get the feeling that (Santiago) Calatrava and (Enric) Ruiz Geli have reached an agreement on how to approach a project of this size,” he says.

“There is a dialogue between Calatrava’s building, which has been uninhabited for more than a decade, and the recently inaugurated Ruiz Geli building. I think this dialogue is real. And it was Ruiz Geli’s will. To keep the Calatrava’s intention behind the building. To serve as an agora, a space for people to meet”.

The space is made with eco-friendly and sustainable elements, including cork, wood, fiberglass and cardboard.

It currently houses an exhibition of the British Museum on the world of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs.

Bjorn Graffmann, a German tourist, says that L’Agora’s exterior and newly built interior are a successful example of two different modern architectural trends.

“It’s wonderful. I haven’t seen anything like it. There are so many. The Oceanic (aquarium), this and the others I haven’t seen yet. I may have to go back tomorrow, because time flies. All architecture lovers they should come here and see this,” he says.

Interest in the new space is proving to be high, with an average of 3,500 daily visitors, around 380,000 since the doors opened in June.

Watch the video above to see inside the spectacular CaixaForum.

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