Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, Valencia, Spain

Santiago Calatrava
Date Built
Opened 2005
City of Arts and Sciences
In 1992 Santiago Calatrava received a commission to develop a 35 hectare site on the dry bed of the River Turia in Valencia.  The local government wanted to establish this site between the city centre and the sea as home to an opera house, science museum and a planetarium. The whole complex is known as the Ciutat de les Arts I les Ciencies or City of Arts and Sciences.  Without question the most spectacular element of the complex is the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia with its soaring roof. 

Calatrava's website says that, "In recognition of the civic importance of the Opera House, Calatrava gave the building the iconographic character of a monumental sculpture. In form, the building is a series of apparently random volumes, which become unified through their enclosure within two symmetrical, cut-away concrete shells. These forms are crowned by a sweeping steel sheath, which projects axially from the entrance concourse out over the uppermost contours of the curvilinear envelope. The structure that results defines the identity of the Opera House, dramatically."  From one angle the building resembles a huge humback whale breaching out of the water infront of you.

The building, "... is meant to serve as both a major performing arts facility for Valencia and as a dynamic urban landmark, helping to consolidate and animate the area in which it is built. The main components of its program are an auditorium seating 1,706, suitable for opera productions as well as concerts and ballet;"

The hall incorporates many structural features designed to foster the best accoustic results including these unusual tiled walls that are rippled is places....

... and undulating in others.

The seats have screens in their backs so that members of the audience at operas can receive simultaneous translation in Spanish or Valencian.

There is also an auditorium with a capacity of 1,490 equipped with advanced film and video projection systems, offering the possibility of viewing performances on special video screens.

There is also a 380-seat chamber music hall for ensemble performances, drama and other events.

In all there are four halls of varying sizes and nearby a fifth, a 400-seat auditorium for experimental theater and dance, with gallery space for exhibitions of fine arts and decorative arts.


More views of the building.

It would be remiss in discussing this wonderful building to not comment on the fact that it has been the centre of controversy and legal action.  As the Guardian pointed out in May of 2014, "... The complex has had structural problems in recent years, including a leaky concert hall roof. In December the hall was fenced off and closed for two months, after high winds blew chunks of the intricate mosaic off the building .... from an original budget of €300m, the cost of the dazzling complex – which includes a concert hall, opera house, planetarium and science museum among its many features – swelled to more than €1bn by the time it was completed in 2005."