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Close encounters of the art kind

12 October 2011 No Comment

Is it an alien space craft? A strange-looking ship? Or, depending on which angle you’re looking at it, a giant, futuristic cycle helmet…?

Actually, this is the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia – or Queen Sofia Palace of the Arts – in Valencia, Spain.


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And you have to admit that at first glance, it really does look like finally we have proof of extra-terrestrial life. But this isn’t the work of a non-earthly being – it was designed by Valencia-born and internationally-known architect Santiago Calatrava.

Tallest opera house in the world


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The task of bringing together the arts of ballet, opera, music and theatre in four auditoriums under one roof required a building as breathtaking as the performances inside. And this surely fits the bill. At 75-metres high, it’s the tallest opera house in the world, with three of its seventeen storeys actually below ground.

Buildings give a solo performance all of their own


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The Sala Principal – Main Hall – is the venue for opera and seats 1,700 people. You can only begin to imagine the quality of the sound which reverberates when the curtain rises. An astonishing 120 musicians – and all their instruments – can fit in its orchestra pit, making it the third largest in the world.

In addition to the Main Hall there’s also a 1,500 seat Auditorium which sits above it, the 400-seat Aula Magistral which is home to chamber music performances and conferences and the Marti i Soler Theatre.

Final act in the completion of the City of Arts and Sciences

Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia is, in itself, impressive but it was actually the final act in the completion of the City of Arts and Sciences, which opened in 2005. Billed as an entertainment-based cultural and architectural complex, each of the seven buildings – all designed by both Santiago Calatrava and Felix Candela – are star attractions in their own right thanks to their unusual appearance.

Like a giant steel eye

L’Hemisferic, for example, is like a giant, steel eye and what you see inside includes an Imax cinema and Laserium.


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The Principe Felipe Science Museum looks like the skeleton of a whale.


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There’s even an open-air oceanographic park built in the shape of a water lily. The largest of its type in Europe, L’Oceanografic is home to 45,000 animals of 500 different species.

Architectural feast all in one place

A visit to the City of Arts and Sciences is a true, all-encompassing experience, which begins long before you even take your seat. The buildings give a solo performance all of their own, where else will you find such an architectural feast for the senses all in one place?

So sit back and enjoy the show. At Palau de Les Arts, you can be guaranteed it will be out of this world.

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