To maintain its city’s cultural standing, the government of Valencia resolved to establish a museum of national importance. The City of Arts and Sciences complex is designed by Santiago Calatrava on an 86-acre site along the dry bed of the Turia River in Spain. The complex is intended to bring new focus to an incoherent and underdeveloped area of Valencia and to link the center city with the sea.
Calatrava's cultural complex is comprised of three major buildings, as part of a linear composition: The Opera House at the western end of the site, the Planetarium/IMAX Theater (Hemispheric Theater) and the Príncipe Felipe Science Museum at the eastern end. Another structure, known as L'Umbracle, is a promenade and parking garage, built within an open arcade that is a contemporary reinvention of the winter garden.
The Opera House will provide Valencia with a major performing arts facility and a dynamic, monumental landmark. The building’s main components consists of a 1,706-seat auditorium, suitable for opera productions as well as concerts and ballet; a 400-seat hall for chamber music, drama and other performances; and an open-air auditorium sheltered by the roof, seating up to 2,000 people and offering spectacular views of the complex, as well as the possibility of viewing performances on special video screens.
The Planetarium/IMAX Theater resembles a human eye, set within a 24,000 square meters pool. The ‘pupil’ is the hemispherical dome of the IMAX Theater, which is transformed into a globe through its reflection in the pool. The Science Museum is a spatial tour de force, 104-meter wide and 241-meter long. It is over 40,000 square meters in area and resembles the skeleton of a whale. Everything in the museum is graphically displayed.