Iain Cameron's Diary
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2006-12-02 - 12:19 p.m.

My farewell tour of V . The last point of call had to be the Palace of Arts and Sciences complex which is 10 mins down the road from the hotel near the end of Turia Park – the 7km long park created by diverting the river. This complex is the 5 enormous buildings which look like they belong to the civilization that the Alien destroyed and left its eggs in at the start of the first movie . That is to say these are very large biomorphic forms with a slightly reptilean aura – a staring eye, a curved backbone, smooth outer armour. In fact there is an oceangrafic that is thoroughly fishy.

The taxi drove past these on the first night on the way from the airport – they made an impression but the initial urge was to see the old town, then the 20C classics like the high modernist art gallery, the art deco railway station and the art nouveau covered market. Finally it dawned that V offers some 21st century impressions too.

Yesterday I took a tram out past the new university to the beach near the port at the mouth of the river Turia. The coast is like a mixture of Detroit and the Isle of Wight – in other words there is some eccentric charm but a fair amount of dereliction too. The Detroit connection comes partly from the ease with which one can take a ferry from the port to Ibitha. Then I went back into the centre for a light lunch and worked my way over to the Turia gardens and strolled slowly down to the Palace.

At first I could only sit at a distance sipping a coffee trying to take it what on earth could be going on. The next visit involved walking around the large segmented rugby ball building in the dark. The illumination cleverly highlights different surfaces to reduce the engineering coherence of the building – so it looks as if great white surfaces are suspended in space by magic or will.

There are four other elements in the set – one seems to be an enormous eye . I am sitting staring at it as it stares back at me. The one next to it reminds me slightly of the Finnish designed (Aalto?) terminal at Dulles airport outside Washington DC which also exploits the fact that concrete can both biomorphic and regular in the sense that each biomorphic element is identical with or systematically varied from the first.

The fish chasing a ball is beyond that and then further along are the cranes of the docks. I am sitting on the edge of the Umbracle which looks like it has escaped from Hockney’stage design for the Magic Flute – symmetrical LA style palm trees, climbing plants gradually working their way up the long curved roof open framework. The greenery attracts the birds who sing as they perch to enhance the flutey ambience.

Before there was Spain there was Aragon and Castille and this was part of Aragon which also extended across the Mediterranean to Sardinia and Naples. The Valentians helped finance Columbus but the discovery of the America switched the balance of power away from Mediterranean focused kingdoms – and so the rise of Spain which the smart Aragonians seem to have foreseen. But apparently this was checked because the Spanish navy didn’t realise that to fight successfully in Atlantic or North Sea conditions you needed a different fleet from the kind that worked in the inland sea.

Has Aragon discovered a new European model with this vast constructive ambition apparently executed with such élan?

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