Saturday, August 12, 2006

Old Valencia

We are staying in the Historic Centre of Valencia. It's packed with beautiful old buildings, most of which have been sensitively restored. On many sites you can see façades (and in some cases side-ades and back-ades) that are being supported by complex steel mechanisms while the entire inside of the building is demolished. Then they build new floors and walls, and incorporate modern plumbing, electrics and lifts. This process in the UK is called 'façadism' and is much despised by architects. But here it works to preserve the visual unity of a beautiful old city while at the same time providing usable office and residential space.

And while the work is ongoing there is no reason for it to look rubbish. In the pic below, the pinkish facade is actually a full-size print of what the finished building will look like, complete with people waving out of windows and probably a dog peeing on a lamp-post.

One of the main features of old Valencia is the Plaza Del Ayuntamiento - Town Hall Square. In any city, it is always worth looking up at the skyline: this is where the architects go crazy, and they've certainly done that in Valencia. We have domes, towers, turrets and all manner of bizarre stuff. Unfortunately I don't have a photo of the Central Post Office building which is a magnificent example of corporate ambitions expressed on the building itself - we are talking statues of wingéd runners, trains and ships. Magnificent!

Another main feature of old Valencia is the Cathedral area. The cathedral itself was built in a series of phases, several centuries apart. There are plazas on three sides of it, and networks of narrow streets all around. Gorgeous.

In my next post we'll see a complete contrast: the City of Arts and Sciences.This is a set of buildings that would not look out of place in Dubai.

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