Valencia's Big Bet

Almost ethereal, Valencia's Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía stands at the edge of the Mediterranean, its egg-shaped dome looking something like an ocean liner's hull or a spaceship. Designed by leading architect and native son of the city Santiago Calatrava, the building is a gleaming composition: curved walls, rolling stairways; turquoise reflecting pools topped by a detached, feather-like roof. But the Palau is more than an architectural masterpiece. An opera house that cost in the neighborhood of €325 million to build, it is also the riskiest element in the city's gamble to become one of Europe's major cultural...

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