Viva el Vidrio en Valencia!
If Barcelona, the second-largest city in Spain, is notable for its dearth of glass in design, then Valencia is just notable for its explosion of glass. Spain’s third-largest city is a mere three-hour ride southwest along the coast from Barcelona, yet they are thousands of kilometers apart when measuring how each city embraces glass.
Madrid may signify power and Barcelona the arts, but Valencia has crafted an image as a modern city of the future while still paying homage to the past. And that amalgamation gives the 2052-year old city a decidedly adventurous spirit.
Valencia pays homage to the history of glass–and ceramics–through its National Ceramics Museum, El Museo Nacional de Cerámica y de las Artes Sutuarias. Housed in a true and former palace, the rooms are all kept in the original Gothic style of the fifteenth century. Each one holds examples of ceramics, including a kitchen that uses ceramics as its sole material throughout. The museum also includes a large collection of prehistoric ceramics, as well as an exhibit of how they have evolved. The Lladro family, noted for its porcelains of the same name, is a large benefactor of the museum. The family is from Valencia and has its international flagship store just a block from the museum.
Despite an emphasis on ceramics, float glass projects dominate Valencia. The Aquarium in the City of Arts and Sciences is the largest aquarium in Europe and incorporates glass in a way that makes the building look both like the aquarium that it is and the fish that are in it.
In a very short time, this massive city-within-a-city has defined the city’s skyscape in much the way the Arch defines Saint Louis. Whereas Barcelona gave up on glass, Valencia embraces it. Nowhere is this more obvious than the Opera House, Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia. Together with the La Agora and the Science and Technology, it forms the Cuidad de las Artes y las Ciencas (the City of Arts and Sciences), a breathtaking, glorious and triumphant trifecta.
Valencia, with its juxtaposition of old and new, ceramic and float glass, is a city that combines both sets of characteristics into one unforgettable celebration of all that glass can be.