When Valencia was named the Word Design Capital 2022, it really came to the fore that the city is much more than the paella’s birthplace and beaches. Valencia has a century-long design history, which the city’s young designers and architects are passing on in new interpretations. Take a tour of everything from modernism to avant-garde design.
1 CaixaForum Valencia
The eye-catching, deep blue, 80-metre-high L’Àgora building, part of Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava’s futuristic Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències (City of Arts and Sciences), has been given a design boost.
L’Àgora opened in 2009, but has been empty and unused for many years, after being used for tennis tournaments for a while. It has been a costly affair for the city, but in 2022 the cultural centre CaixaForum Valencia moved in.
Fundación La Caixa has invested 19 million in a redesign of L’Àgora, led by Catalan architect Enric Ruiz-Geli, and now the building is a design-futuristic vision, filled with art. Caixa Forum Valencia houses two exhibition halls, an auditorium, a square, bookshop, restaurant and training rooms.
In the centre of the hall on the second level, under the organically shaped white slatted ceiling, floats a white and turquoise ‘cloud’ that serves as a multifunctional space. It is part of the ‘living space’ and is surrounded by a rest room with a vertical garden and small cells for teaching and exhibitions. The cloud overlooks the organically shaped administration rooms with small round brightly coloured ceramic tiles that have clear references to Antoni Gaudí, which the public can also visit.
The ground floor houses the cafeteria and exhibition rooms where you can see changing exhibits. Caixa Forum Valencia will also organise concerts and events in the future.
CaixaForum Valencia, Carrer d’Eduardo Primo Yúfera 1A
2 Ágora pavilions
An ultra-modern, airy pavilion lights up the middle of Valencia’s town hall square, Plaça de l’Ajuntament. The white, rectangular Ágora Pavilion is a work of art created for Valencia World Design Capital 2022 by Miguel Arraiz, architect and project manager of World Design Capital Valencia 2022, in collaboration with Arquea Arquitectura y Urbanismo and Cosín Estudio. In 2022, the pavilion has been a focal point for events and information on exhibitions and activities.
The open pavilion has an open, raised interior consisting of hundreds of white panels created in a ceramic-like material that references Valencia’s ceramic history. The undulating roof refers to the waves of the sea at Valencia, and when darkness falls over the city, the pavilion lights up like a lighthouse, recalling the essence of the Mediterranean.
In 2023, there are plans to move the pavilion from the city hall square to the port area to make way for the city’s famous Fallas festival in March.
Àgora, Plaza de l’yuntamiento (until February/March 2023. Check the exact location of Árgora on the tourist office website when you travel.)
3 Mercado de Colón
Valencia’s Eixample district (also known as Ensanche) is home to the city’s hippest food market, Mercado de Colón, one of Valencia’s most iconic examples of modernist architecture. The Mercado de Colón was designed by architect Francisco Mora Berenguer in the early 20th century and is 3,500m2 in size. At each end of the building are triumphal arch red brick entrances with small decorative glass-covered bar areas at the side, and the facade is adorned with colourful ceramic mosaics in classic Valencian style.
The market is on two levels, where locals gather for drinks, tapas and lunch or dinner in the many cafés, bars and restaurants. There is also a flower stall and stalls selling delicacies and crafts.
Mercado de Colón, Carrer de Jorge Juan 19
4 Designer Jaime Hayon
Furniture, interior design, sculptures, industrial design, masks and tapestries in a colourful and whimsical universe, full of surprises. The world-famous Spanish designer Jaime Hayon (b. 1974) embraces broadly and is impossible to overlook.
You may know him from his designs for Danish Fritz Hansen, which include the popular Japanese-inspired vases, IKERU and IKEBANA, and the HAPPY HOOK coat hook. Jaime Hayon was born in Madrid but has chosen to settle and run his studio in Valencia, and it is with great pride that the city is hosting the designer’s first retrospective exhibition InfinitaMente, which can be seen at the Carme Cultura Contemporània (CCCC) cultural centre in Valencia’s El Carmen district until 16 April 2023.
The exhibition contains many fine examples of Hayon’s playful universe of design, art, craft and industry. Imaginative animal designs are a recurring theme in Hayon’s vast output, which is driven by optimism, humour, sensual and organic forms, graphic detail, lightness and a keen interest in flora and fauna. The exhibition is divided into themes, with the largest room dedicated to furniture and home furnishings, arranged on colourful podiums.
In the ‘Fantasy’ room there are five huge paintings with floating figures, animals and natural elements. Glass and ceramics play a major role in Hayon’s work, and the ceramic works in the exhibition are both artistic and functional. Sections of sketches, notebooks, photographs and prototypes from Hayon’s home and studio also give us an insight into the designer’s working process.
Finally, for the first time in Spain, you can see the work ‘Masquemask’, consisting of seven giant tapestry masks designed for the Lodz Design Museum in Poland. The mask is a key object in Hayon’s world, and we also find it on a number of jars, vases and sculptures.
When you’re not seeing the Jaime Hayon exhibition at the CCCC, drop by Valencia’s central food market Mercado Central, where you’ll find the deli UNO, decorated with tiles created by Hayon.
CCCC Centro del Carmen de Cultura Contemporánea, Carrer del Museu 2 – The Hayon exhibition is on view until 16 April 2023.
UNO, Plaza del Mercado
5 Vaqueta Gastro Mercat
Located in Valencia’s historic centre, the hip Vaugeta Gastro Mercat restaurant offers a special experience in both design and gastronomy, focusing on modern interpretations of Valencia’s heart and history.
The interior has won a design award for the designers from Janfri Ranchal Studio in Valencia. There are rough brick walls, organically shaped wooden room dividers and columns embroidered with Valencia’s emblematic oranges. The menu and cutlery holders are in ceramic, decorated with snails, a traditional Valencian ingredient.
Lighting rarely gets as much attention as it has in the interior of Gastro Mercat. Above the bar hangs a large lamp shaped like a fish, referencing the city’s Mediterranean produce, and above the tables hang spherical lamps in leather and rattan, symbolising Valencia’s ball sport pilota.
Even in the bathroom, you’ll be surprised by the thoughtful and innovative design of the colourful room, with green doors and walls, a pink sink, floral wallpaper and dried flowers hanging from the ceiling.
When you enter the restaurant, you go through a greengrocer’s where you select the ingredients you would like to have prepared and served in the restaurant, located in the premises behind.
The raw materials come from the nearby Mercat Central and the menu includes paella, tomato salad with Valencian tomatoes, octopus, fish and chicken.
Vaqueta Gastro Mercat, Carrer de Sant Ferran 22
6 Bombas Gens
A disused 1930s modernist building that once housed a factory producing hydraulic pumps now houses the Bombas Gens cultural centre. The 6,200 square metre building has been completely renovated respecting the original style and spirit. Bombas Gens has an art collection of over 1500 national and international works, mainly photography and abstract art, and holds regular exhibitions.
The exhibition Earth: A Retrospective will run until 4 June 2023 in conjunction with World Design Capital 2022 Valencia. The exhibition is special because the design duo El Ultimo Grito has curated a photo exhibition based on Per Amor a l’Art Collection. The exhibition is based on a design concept that shows photographs in a whole new way. Photos that would normally be put together in series are split up and put together with other photos in tableaux and hangings that break with how photo exhibitions are traditionally put together. Photographers’ works are distributed by theme rather than artist. It breaks our ideas about what nature looks like and instead creates new stories about what the earth looks like, giving us a new perspective and new narratives. The exhibition is a contemporary project, created out of past memories from an unknown future.
If you can’t make it to Earth: A Retrospective, Bombas Gens is still worth a visit. The building is an architectural gem and the exhibitions are always interesting and innovative.
Bombas Gens, Av. de Burjassot 54 – The exhibition Earth: A Retrospective is open until 4 June 2023.
7 Candela and Rama
From Carrasquer Street, in Valencia’s El Pilar district, you can see one of Valencia’s talented young jewellery designers at work in his workshop at number 10. Candela en Rama makes a point of letting people see that her jewellery is handmade, which is why she has a view of the workshop through the large window. The shop, bearing the same name as the designer, is adjacent to the workshop, and here Candela’s jewellery is neatly presented in an elegant, simple and brightly decorated room.
Candela en Rama’s jewellery is sophisticated, simple and she makes it in silver as well as gold-plated and oxidised silver. She considers jewellery design to be an art form and combines traditional jewellery craftsmanship with innovative design, which she calls avant-garde craftsmanship. The jewellery conveys the culture and history of Valencia in a new and modern way.
The inspiration for the shape of the jewellery comes from the nature around Valencia and the sea, and they are created in series. Fios (sunset of the fig tree) is inspired by the bark of the fig tree and the curves of its leaves. Hitos (milestones) are inspired by the transformation of pebbles in nature and composed of small flat stones in a row, which are applied ruby red Japanese lacquer.
Candela’s latest range called Sembra is inspired by rice cultivation in Valencia’s surrounding Albufera nature park. She has shaped small jewellery grains, which she has put together into bracelets, earrings and necklaces. The silver and gilding symbolise the golden glow that falls over the rice fields at sunset, and the oxidised jewellery grains refer to the ‘soccaret’ paella, which has a darkened base.
Candela en Rama, Carrer de Carrasquer 10
8 La Sastrería
Sitting in the sea-blue restaurant of La Satrería, a combined bar and restaurant in Valencia’s former fishing quarter of El Cabanyal, feels like you’re on the rolling Mediterranean. Today, many young creatives have moved into the now hip neighbourhood, including chefs like those at La Satrería. Ranks of giant ceramic beads on string hang from the ceiling, and blue ceramic tiles ripple around the walls and run across the floor of the restaurant, where the cushions on chairs and benches are also sea blue. In the centre of the room is an open kitchen with a view of the working chefs, who wear aprons with a measuring tape as a strap. La Sastrería is both a tribute to the sea and the tailor’s shop that used to occupy the premises (Sastrería means tailor’s shop).
The adjacent bar is decorated with green, red, white and black ceramic tiles in modern patterns on the walls, the two long bar tables and the small tables along the walls. You can also dine outside on the terrace under sea-blue parasols.
The menu is sophisticated reinterpretations of Spanish cuisine that are both tasty and pleasing to the eye. The menu includes tapas, rice dishes, meat and – of course – plenty of fish. The fish dishes include hake in misohollandaise and turbot with caper sauce.
La Satrería, Carrer de Josep Benlliure 42
If you’re looking for a different, creative and modern souvenir, visit @typicalvalencia, which, as its name suggests, has made a point of giving tourists atypical memories to take home from Valencia. @typicalvalencia has a shop in the Mercado Central food market, which is full of posters and postcards with graphic interpretations of Valencia’s landmarks, which also adorn t-shirts, magnets, notebooks, as well as visual recipes for typical Valencian dishes.
A hybrid between an art gallery and a souvenir shop, @typicalvalencia’s graphic and stylish souvenirs are made by local designers and artists who are passionate about their city and its architecture, culture and gastronomy. New artists are constantly joining the community, which calls the project ‘Souvenir 2.0 in 100 percent Valencian design’. @typicalvalencia also has a shop in the centre, outside the market.
@typicalvalencia, Plaza del Mercado and C/ dels Cavallers 10
Stay at a design hotel in Valencia
When your focus is on design experiences in Valencia, it makes sense to stay in one of Valencia’s design hotels. Modern, sunshine-yellow ceramic tiles adorn the facade of the elegant and ultra-modern design Cosmo Hotel & Bar, located in Valencia’s city centre, with easy access to all the city’s attractions.
Cosmo Hotel Boutique has simply decorated rooms (from standard to King Superior) in white with few splashes of colour. It has a terrace, a restaurant serving breakfast, and rooms with modern amenities such as a work desk, air conditioning, minibar and electric kettle. The bar on the ground floor is colourfully designed and a hip meeting place for locals.
In the streets surrounding the hotel you will find restaurants and shops whose facades are adorned with the hand of modern local designers.
Prices from 587 kr.
Cosmo Hotel & Bar, Av. de María Cristina 8