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The vision: Innovative bridges and buildings whose graceful, sculptural qualities disguise their rigorous engineering
Claim to fame: Ciutat de les Arts i de les Cièncias, Valencia
Much like that other Spanish architect-visionary Antoni Gaudí, Calatrava's buildings are inspired by Mother Nature, but it's his background in engineering that makes his sci-fi creations buildable. Calatrava draws on animal life: He's smitten by the science of bionics, and you'll likely find elements that will remind you of wingspans, fossils, and vertebrae. To experience his bravura vision (some would say blind ambition), take a trip to Calatrava's hometown of Valencia and its Ciutat de les Arts i de les Cièncias, completed in 2004. The 87-acre development includes a mammoth Science Museum, a planetarium, and the latest addition, a helmet-shaped concert hall (a convention center is under construction). While it's turned Valencia into a destination for design buffs, drawing tourists from architecturally rich rival city Barcelona, some question whether Spain's third city has the means to offer a cultural program hefty enough for its gargantuan spaces. Maybe, but we think these buildings alone are as worthy of a visit as the region's famed paella.
Ciutat de les Arts i de les Cièncias
Tel: 34 902 100 031