Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Cidade de Cultura

I bet the Cidade de Cultura (of Galicia) is not what you think of when you think of Santiago del Compostela.

Santiago de Compostela (the Way of St James), is a City in Northwest Spain which was originally a stopping point on a Roman road, but the discovery of the Apostle James’ tomb at the beginning of the 9th century gave rise to a place of workshop in the corner of the Iberian Peninsula, which was then dominated by the Moors. From then on all of Europe started walking towards Santiago, a holy city of Christendom. A Romanesque cathedral dominates the old city, and pilgrims converge on the City from every direction. It is very moving to see people arrving with backpacks and walking sticks from all over Europe and beyond after weeks and sometimes months of walking

We thought the old city and cathedral and the pilgrims would dominate our visit, but alas, we were captivated by the Cidade de Cultura, the most fantastic white elephant I have ever seen, which rises on a hill to the Northwest of the City. 
According to Wikipedia:
The City of Culture of Galicia (GalicianCidade da Cultura de Galicia or simply Cidade da Cultura) is a complex of cultural buildings in Santiago de CompostelaA CoruñaGaliciaSpain, designed by a group of architects led by Peter Eisenman. Construction is challenging and expensive as the design of the buildings involves high degree contours, meant to make the buildings look like rolling hills. Nearly every window of the thousands that are part of the external façade has its own custom shape.[1] In 2013 it was announced that after more than a decade, construction of the project would be halted. The International Art Center and Music and Scenic Arts Center will not be built.[2]
Construction on the project began during the boom of Spain’s housing bubble in the 2000s but it still wasn’t finished when la crisis (the economic crisis) towards the end of the decade, by which time 800 million euros had been spent. Only four of the planned six buildings have been finished, and the opera house and the art museum—have been canceled for the time being. The 2 holes in the ground remain however - and it seems likely forever. 
In other words, it's a white elephant, but the most fantastic, futuristic, innovative, strange, provocative white elephant you have ever seen - think of a post apocalypse Mad Max meeting Frank Lloyd Wright in a medieval city. 
These photos cannot do it justice, but I hope they give you a feel for the place, and the desolation of unfinished beauty. 

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