We’re Not Living in the Past or the Present Anymore: This is the Future!

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Sometimes you stumble upon a new place, look around, and suddenly feel like you’ve been transported into an episode of the Jetsons.

Here are a few of the futuristic districts and buildings I’ve come across or revisited recently when I happen to have my camera gear with me. Photos at the end.

Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències, Valencia, Spain

Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias or City of Arts and Sciences is an ensemble of five areas in the dry river bed of the now diverted River Turia in Valencia, Spain.  It was designed by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava in collaboration with Félix Candela, and started in July 1996.

The “city” is made up of the following, usually known by their Valencian names: El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía — Opera house and performing arts centre, L’HemisfèricImax Cinema, Planetarium and Laserium, L’Umbracle — Walkway / Garden, El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe — Science museum, L’Oceanogràfic — Open-air oceanographic park.

The Atomium, Brussels, Belgium

I took my first trip up the tubular escalators of the Atomium when I was seven years old visiting my relatives in Brussels.  I returned many years later to see the renovations in progress (that’s why there are cranes in some of the photos).  The renovation work replaced all the faded aluminum sheets on the spheres with shiny new stainless steel sheets.  To raise funds for the renovation, triangular sections of the old sheets were sold to the public.  I wanted to buy one, but the exchange rate was horrible at the time.

The Atomium was built for 1958 Brussels World’s Fair.  It is 335 feet tall, with nine steel spheres connected so that the whole forms the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times.  Tubes which connect the spheres along the 12 edges of the cube and all eight vertices to the centre enclose escalators connecting the spheres which contain exhibit halls and other public spaces.  You can get a panoramic view of Brussels from the top sphere.

Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao was designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry.  The bridge next to the Guggenheim (in my photos below) cross the Nervion River, which runs through the city of Bilbao to the Atlantic Coast. The Guggenheim features both permanent and visiting exhibits featuring works of both Spanish and international artists.

The curves on the building have been designed to appear random. The architect has been quoted as saying that “the randomness of the curves are designed to catch the light”.  Opened to the public in 1997, it was immediately vaulted to prominence as one of the world’s most spectacular buildings in the style of Deconstructivism.  Architect Philip Johnson called it “the greatest building of our time”.

The museum’s design and construction serve as an object lesson in Gehry’s style and method.  Its brilliantly reflective titanium panels resemble fish scales, echoing the other organic life (and, in particular, fish-like) forms that recur commonly in Gehry’s designs.  Computer Aided Three Dimensional Interactive Application (CATIA) and visualizations were used heavily in the structure’s design.

La Défense, Paris, France

La Défense is a business district in Paris.  The district is at the westernmost extremity of Paris’ Historical Axis, which starts at the Louvre in Central Paris and continues along the Champs-Élysées, well beyond the Arc de Triomphe before culminating at La Défense.  If you stand at the Louvre, you can look straight down the Axis and see all three arcs in perfect alignment.  Around its 330 ft-high Grande Arche and esplanade, the district holds many of the Paris urban area’s tallest high-rises. With its 77.5 acres, its 72 glass-and-steel slick buildings including 14 high-rises above 490 ft, La Défense is Europe’s largest business district.

The Pompidou Centre

The Pompidou opened in 1977 and is still ahead of its time architecturally.  The project was awarded to a team in an architectural design competition, whose results were announced in 1971.  All of the functional structural elements of the building are color-coded: green pipes are plumbing, blue ducts are for climate control, electrical wires are encased in yellow, and circulation elements and devices for safety are red.

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