After a brief but turbulent history, Valencia’s Agora, now known as Caixaforum, is set to become what Santiago Calatrava first envisaged – a multifunctional space that is, if nothing else, open…
One of the City Council’s biggest headaches, the massive Agora building in the City of Arts and Sciences, will finally be removed from the expense books. La Caixa Foundation, the new tenant, has announced that the Caixaforum centre will open to the public in summer 2022, with innovative indoor design and enhanced functionality, and a clear ambition to become Valencia’s version of the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
Agora, completed in 2009 as the final piece of City of Arts and Sciences, was intended to become an exhibition centre as well as a large multifunctional space where major events are held. With a height of 70 metres and a surface area of approximately 6,000 square metres, it would be able to seat up to 6,000 people, it was claimed.
Despite the fact that construction work was not completed, the structure was officially opened in November 2009 to host the Valencia Open 500 ATP tournament. Tennis was played here until 2015, when the last tournament was held, and then the building stood empty, slowly decaying. The first works required were cladding repairs, which were funded by the Generalitat with a budget of €1.6m. The Valencian government invested another €4m in general repairs and getting the building into the condition required by the La Caixa Foundation, the building’s new and warmly welcomed tenant. Despite being a far cry from the original cost of €1.2 bn, these repairs were still financially painful, so there was some relief when Caixaforum’s plans were revealed.
When the Foundation took over Agora, it spent an additional €19m to bring it closer to its vision. The bank hired Cloud 9 design studio, led by architect Enric Ruiz-Geli, who created the design that complements Calatrava’s ideas. Although it has not been fully revealed, it is expected to become an architectural marvel in its own right, much like the rest of the City of Arts and Sciences. When completed, Agora will have two exhibition halls, a 300-person auditorium, a bookstore, a restaurant, a family and educational space, and some office space.
Much like the Pompidou Centre in Paris, Agora is set to become Valencia’s primary exhibition space. Some major events, such as the British Museum’s exposition of Egyptian mummies and works by Picasso and Miró, are already planned for 2023. The entrance to Agora will be on the side of the Science Museum, and while access to the facilities (café and bookstore) will be free, you will have to pay to enter the exhibitions unless you are a CaixaBank customer.