Valencia: A City Rich In Architecture

Following Manchester United affords me the opportunity to visit some fascinating places. Most recently that was Valencia, in Spain.

I was there at the historic Mestalla Stadium to witness my team just about qualify for the next round of the Champions League. But my favourite part of the trip was exploring the city and and enjoying its many and varied architectural treats.

The old

Valencia was first built by the Romans, and although you’ll need to visit a museum to see evidence of that, just by walking around the streets you’ll see a wealth of buildings dating back as early as the 14th century. There are many magnificent examples of the locals’ take on gothic.

The obvious focal point is the cathedral, and there are many other beautiful examples too, including a basilica just metres away and a pair of 15th century towers which have protected the city as recently as the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s.

The central market, which has a magnificent ceiling, is one of the largest of its kind in Europe, and the nearby Silk Exchange is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site.

Compact by design, the centre itself can be taken in within a single day – with a wide choice of galleries and museums for anybody with a little more time to spare.

The new

Anybody who loves ingenuity and mixing form with function, as I do, will marvel at the Turia gardens.

Tired of the city flooding whenever the River Turia burst its banks, the city decided to reroute the river around the population and turn the now-dry riverbed into an attraction fit for both tourists and locals. It’s now a popular home to public art, sports facilities, flower gardens and, best of all, the City of Arts and Sciences.

A project costing almost one billion euros, it features extensive gardens, an IMAX cinema, an aquarium, a science museum and an opera house. But these are no ordinary buildings: architects Santiago Calatrava and Felix Candela were tasked with creating something that will live long in the memory.

Photos show how original and inspiring the unique collection of buildings are, but I recommend walking among them to feel the full effect.

Antoni Gaudí

Valencia is not far along the coast from Barcelona, a city I have written about previously in this blog. And the influence of the noted and highly unusual architect Antoni Gaudí can be found in the city, too, not least in the magnificent Colon Market. So whether you’re a fan old architecture from eras past, new and inspiring takes on public works, or you like to sip a fine wine on the beach while watching the sun set (which was also part of my trip) I can recommend Valencia as a destination rich in experiences.

The Notre Dame fire was a tragedy and a cause for optimism

It was heart-breaking to turn on the news and see the Notre Dame cathedral burning, but in many ways what followed inspired hope and optimism.

The cathedral is the finest example of gothic architecture in the world. Nearly one thousand years since work began, and almost 700 years since the original construction was completed, it has been an iconic part of the Parisian landscape for generations. It’s not just one of France’s greatest buildings, but one of the world’s finest examples of architecture.

And that’s why it hurt to see it ravaged by fire. But this is not the first time the building has been damaged. It has been repaired and restored several times in its rich history, and it will be repaired once more.

The core structure of the building is still standing, which not only makes saving this building possible, but it’s strength and stability even in the face of this major fire is another awe-inspiring aspect of its centuries-old construction.

Experts are suggesting that restorations could take a decade or more to complete. That’s probably true. But the fact that there is so much enthusiasm about bringing the cathedral back – from politicians, from millionaires and billionaires, from the public around the world – is so positive. It proves that architecture plays an important role in our lives.

Beautiful buildings inspire people to make and do beautiful things.

The rebuilding of the cathedral will be a symbol for hope. It shows that we care about art, about public works and public spaces, and it shows that we can all come together to find recognise what a tragedy this event was, and then all determine together to put things right.

And when Notre Dame cathedral reopens in 10, or even 20 years, I’ll be there among the masses enjoying everything the revitalised building has to offer.