Saturday, September 3, 2011

Barcelona: Day 10 : Travel Class

I'm writing this a day late -- you'll have to bear with me some days because we were out pretty late and I was exhausted when we got back -- not to mention we had to get up pretty early for class the next morning. And alsoooo I have a ton to write about!

SO. Today was our first day of the travel class. The idea behind the travel class is that you will be able to go on walks around the city, and even to other cities, and other countries as well that will enrich your cultural experience and learn how architecture is done in this part of the world. Our teacher, Kathrin, will be our main sort of guide around for the semester. She seems really nice, and also seems like she really knows what she's doing. According to the group of kids before us, she always gave great tips of places to eat and things to do that were not only a bit off the beaten path, so you'd get a better cultural experience, but also relatively cheap so that it wouldn't break the bank. Sounds perfect for me, because I am certainly trying to budget myself accordingly so that I don't overspend.

I'm going to include lots of pictures and things, as well as lots of information that I took in my notes in my sketchbook (I seemed to be the only one that was doing so, but oh well) in hopes that you'll be able to sort of experience what I was experiencing through this blog.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The usual five of us that have been hanging out (myself, Ryan, Ian, Brit, and Jen) decided that since we had the morning off and didn't have class until 4pm, (or as they call it here, 1600 hours, because they use military time) we were going to the beach. We've always walked, although we've heard that the [lazy] graduate students have always taken the bus to get there. But I kind of enjoy the walk because you get to go through a nice Barceloneta neighborhood that is right along the shore. There is a bit of animosity towards tourists in that area, especially those that decide to stay in that area during their stay, but we haven't really experience any. More on that neighborhood to come...

This was the first time that we had been to the beach in the morning, and even though it was only like 10:00 or so, the sun was still definitely on its way up. I think that the daily cycle actually functions a bit later than at home. The peak of the day, when the sun is at its highest, is somewhere closer to 1 or 2pm rather than 12. I've noticed those differences even just from New Jersey comparatively to Clemson.
semi morning sunrise at the beach
The morning sunrise was a nice change to be there, and let me tell you I certainly have been getting my share of sun... But it's been great to be able to lay out a lot and not have to worry too much about classes or some sort of extremely busy schedule. In addition, we've all sort of had the feeling that we're getting to know the area pretty well and that we can enjoy the leisure of the beach without feeling lost or anything like that. We know where to shop for food, we know some good (and cheap) places to eat, and we all feel that Kathrin will certainly do a fabulous job taking us to some interesting places.

Oh, and on the subject of Kathrin, she is originally from Germany. Needless to say, she knows German. But she also speaks English fluently (with a few hitches here and there) and of course, since she lives in Barcelona with her husband, Spanish. She apparently also knows some other language as well but I forget which... I want to say French? But I could be wrong.
this is the life.

Our first stop on the walk was to this sort of square. These little plazas are all over the place, in an effort to create more public space. Interestingly enough, the foundation of the building that used to stand in this particular plaza still exists in a way, because of the design of a sort of perimeter that was around the place. The building was not abandoned, it was actually taken out, in an attempt to open up some serious space in the city in the 1980's.

note the light stone-- the original foundation lines
The second place that we stopped is a road that we know well, after walking to the beach so much. I actually personally remembered this area quite well from the last time that I was in Barcelona. It was really interesting to see how things like that came back to you.

Well anyways, Kathrin told us that this 6 lane road used to be a quite literal barrier between the land and the sea. Originally it was supposed to be a great area centralized around a hopping night life, in addition to utilizing the great local seafoods. There were lots of pavilions along the area, and lots of public seating. The restaurants and other things under the pavilions are now gone, but one decoration still remains: the silly looking lobster that was on top of a pavilion that housed a famous seafood restaurant. Upon first seeing these pavilions we all were reminded of the dreaded gridded mesh that we had to make for the DWS project. In the picture you can also see that the road continues actually underneath the walkway as well.
goofy lobster in all its glory

Nowadays, the nightlife atmosphere in this area has been lost. Instead, La Rambla del Mar has sort of taken over that sentiment. The area houses a huge mall, lots of outdoor restaurants and bars, and even a carnival-like area that reminds me of the piers in Seaside or the rides down in Point Pleasant. (If you don't know about those places, feel free to look them up)

The third place that we stopped was sort of a relation to the area about the building being torn down and turned into public space. In some cases, people run bankrupt and their buildings sort of collapse into ruin. Not only is this an eyesore for the public, but it also creates a solid opportunity for squatters to live for free. Obviously squatters everywhere is not exactly the most desired thing in a city, and thus if the owner of the lot doesn't have the money to build a new building, they can temporarily turn it into public space. This particular owner didn't do much with the space, but it's better than having an abandoned building.

It's also interesting to note all of the graffiti that is around in Barcelona. The city has been described as a bit rebellious, especially since in earlier times under dictatorship they were not allowed to speak their language of choice, which is Catalan, a mix of French and Spanish (makes sense, since Barcelona only has the Pyrenees separating it from France). Some people even have Spanish names on their passports and things, as opposed to the Catalan names they were given, so that they would not get in trouble.

that would be Kathrin in the lower left

The next area that we walked through was the neighborhood of Barceloneta. I'm not sure of the exact translation, but I would imagine it's something along the lines of 'little Barcelona'. It has a huge neighborhood feel to it, and every neighborhood in Barcelona has one big market that people can go to. The market adds to the neighborhood feel and helps to group people together. It is just one of the necessities of living and as such pops up where needed. I don't remember if Kathrin told us the architect, but she mentioned the interesting roof design and how it almost seems playful. Also, the great amount of public space is to be noted. Kathrin told us that when she moved to Barcelona for the first time that this was the neighborhood that she lived in. She also said that all buildings in the area were originally limited to 1 or 2 stories. Obviously, that has since changed.

Barceloneta, as mentioned before, is the closest neighborhood to the sea, and as such, has always had some sort of relation to fishermen. Almost everyone is either a fisherman themselves or is related to a fisherman in either immediate or extended family. That's just the way things are. We then continued on to walk sort of along the beach, and eventually turned a bit more inland to view the headquarters of a natural gas company.

Their headquarters is this giant building of an almost erratic sort, and the glass paneling on the entirety of the building makes for a really interesting sight. There are a lot of great pictures that I took of this one, but decided to only put in two because this post is already getting incredibly long.

So this building actually has an interesting story: When it was originally fabricated it wasn't ventilated properly and one day there was a mass evacuation because of that. Later on it had to be renovated before people could start working again. It was made by the architectural firm EMBT, which apparently was originally only EM but then combined forces with some other guys.

One last interesting thing about this headquarters was the fact that they had public space there, but we were told that even though it was there, they didn't really want you to sit there. This was certainly evident by the security guard giving us odd looks as we took tons of pictures around the building...

We stopped at a biomedical research center next, not too far from the natural gas headquarters. One funny story before we get to that -- these little kids were riding their bikes down a ramp and absolutely booking it right toward our group! They were just yelling "BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP" in the most obnoxious way and then this one chubby kid drifted to a stop, clearly annoyed that he had to change his plan of rampaging down the little ramp. We were dying laughing, because it was so so funny, and Kendall made the interesting point that this kid (along with numerous other people riding bikes) seem to think that their course is set in stone, god forbid they have to turn to avoid people. It's really entertaining (and quite often dangerous).

Anyways, this research center is also a hospital, but it really has an interesting shape. It almost looks like a Hostess cupcake with a rectangle cut out of it. Its presence right on the beachfront shows that the beach area is not just a tourist area, but also has some vital uses as well. I wish I could include more of the pictures because there are some really neat ones. Let me just say that it's SO easy to take tons of pictures while we're on these walks!

Next we headed down a street that had really been developed for the Olympics that were held in Barcelona. This is really called the Port OlimpĂ­c area. There were residential dormitories specifically for the Olympics, and some really neat sidewalk designs and monumental structures. There are two I'd like to specifically talk about -- the first being this man that is all colors. There are also tons of flagpoles that had the flags of all the different nations. The man with all of the pieces of color symbolizes the cohesion of all of the different nations coming together to celebrate the games.

A lot of these areas are still around, obviously, even though the Olympics have long since been over. (Barcelona's turn to hold the Olympics was recent, but not that recent). The Olympic village area has since become a bit less touristy and still has your regular marketplaces and such. They tried to give it a neighborhood feel. However, there are still things that define it as the Olympic area. For instance, every four blocks there are these bridges that connect buildings that make 'superstructures.' The firm EMBT is very prevalent in this area, and built a lot of the neat things that were made for Olympic games, including the railroad-esque coverings in the middle of the boulevard, which can be seen in the picture above.

The last few things we visited were relatively small. We saw a church that served as a multicultural nondenominational center during the Olympics, and we caught a glance of the oldest cemetery in Barcelona. Kathrin told us that there is a monument there to remember all the deaths of a giant yellow fever outbreak years ago. We walked into what seemed like a much quieter and older part of town, and upon turning a corner, saw our table for dinner at Ve PobleNou Restaurant. Kathrin was generous enough to treat us to a dinner a various appetizers, water and wine, multiple kinds of traditional paella, and even dessert. It had been a hell of a long day, but it was all worth it! I'm really stoked about this travel class, and can't wait for you guys to hear more about the adventures we take with it.

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