Michael Hammond explores the enigma of Spain’s third largest city
This summer sees the arrival of the America’s Cup sailing challenge in Valencia, Spain’s third largest city and home of Santiago Calatrava. The high profile glamourous event has been heralded by many as the catalyst for another Barcelona effect or even worse, a Bilbao effect. However Valencia is no ordinary provincial city and holds many surprises for the unprepared visitor. Next week sees the start of the Fallas de Valencia, a fiesta to end all fiestas where the whole city goes mad. Literally. Each district spends up to six months constructing huge surreal effigies depicting bawdy, satirical scenes and current events (politicians and Spanish celebrities are all fair game). Constructed from cardboard, wood, papier-mâché and plaster, these fantastic installations, some costing over US$75,000 can be three stories high are placed (often craned) at over 300 key intersections in and around the city and its parks. After five days of celebrations and round-the-clock fireworks, the effigies are set alight in a wild night of fire and fantasy.
Images from left to right - 1. David Chipperfield's Pavilion exterior, 2. David Chipperfield's Pavilion terrace, 3. Valencia prepares for Las Fallas (image 1) 4. Valencia prepares for Las Fallas (image 2) 5. Calatrava's Opera House by night, 6. Calatrava's Opera House end view.