I’ve been able to get by here on my three years of high school Spanish, but there is definitely room for improvement. I’ve been able to communicate with waiters, and even purchased the internet last night from the older man working the front desk. I’m convinced that I need to learn Spanish (as it shares many words with English) if I want to practice architecture in places outside of the United States. For any major architectural commissions, it would be necessary to learn a language outside of English, if only to appear culturally sensitive and global.

For the start of the day, we walked to the Casa Batlla, a Gaudi designed residency. Upon entering, you encounter a wooden carved stair case, which resembles the spine of a snake, bending and twisting upwards. Wooden carved doors, windows, and even the concrete structural features resemble animalistic, or zoomorphic, forms. Following the stairs upward, you emerge into the light well of the house, surrounded by the rooms on all sides. The stairs move upward, flowing around the elevator. Natural light pours down, reflecting on the dark blue tiles lining the walls, bouncing off of glass, making reflections reminiscent of water. Continuing, slowly out of breath, you emerge onto the roof, as if coming up from a beautifully clear, underwater sea . From upon the roof, you see the nearby apartments of the street, and come to realize the full significance of Gaudi’s architecture.

Gaudi’s architecture, however, is not only part of the early 20th century. His plaster forms and structural ideas appear in modern architecture, most notably in the work of the Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava. Relative to Spain, Calatrava’s work builds upon the projects of Gaudi, exploring zoomorphic forms and innovative structural principles that resemble nature, meanwhile exploring metaphor simultaneously. Today, however, Calatrava’s work often is viewed without an understanding of Gaudi’s work; Calatrava’s projects, placed in locations outside of Spain, lose their regional context and thus can be criticized more heavily outside of Barcelona than within it.
Upon finishing our tour of Gaudi’s Casa Batllo, we walked to the Sagrada Familia. Walking through a wooded park, we approach the church diagonally, the branches of the trees intertwining with the structural branches of the church, reinforcing its naturalistic characteristics. We walk under the heavy stone entrance, and emerge into a light filled, space; stone “bones” reach up to the ceiling, lights floods in from a side aisle like exposed ribs laid gracefully on the ground. The church has significance because it is different than other churches to an excessive degree; it embraces the Mediterranean sea, bringing from stone to life the Barcelona’s cultural attributes.

Many people question why Sagrada Familia remains under construction. I think the answer is actually quite simply. Architecture, being a discipline that resides in the gray area between art and science, can be allowed to dabble in mystery; if the Sagrada Familia is finished, it becomes another completed church, like hundreds of others throughout Europe. By remaining “under construction,” it plays upon the metaphor that the Church is always building and growing. Furthermore, it gives visitors a wondering experience, as they always will try to guess what the end result will feel like. Maybe they will come back again to see what has changed. The Sagrada Familia’s continuous construction is part of its identity; it cannot be divorced from it.

We proceeded to the Olympic Village and walked along the beach. The light was excellent and the clouds were slightly overcast, lending a watercolor hue to the sky, as our bare feet pressed against the wet sand. Surfers wiped out on waves from the harbor, while ships sailed against the horizon. The “W” hotel of Barcelona stood against the sky, casting red, orange, and yellow sunset light back towards us.
We walked forty minutes back to the hotel. I’m going downstairs to see if my friend Jess Devries and anyone else wants to go to the internet café (its about a euro instead of four the hotel charges). See you tomorrow!

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