Sustainable Product Design visit Barcelona

Sustainable Product Design students from Falmouth University have just returned from a field trip to Barcelona. 29 students from 1st and 2nd year enjoyed five days in this fantastic city enjoying museums, exhibitions and architecture and soaking up the Catalan culture.

Despite the 4.30am departure from Penryn Campus, we made it to Bristol airport for the EasyJet morning departure to Barcelona. A fairly turbulent take off was a little unnerving for some, but the remaining flight was uneventful and allowed for some catch up on sleep. We took in some breath taking views of the city as the plane headed out above the Mediterranean before steeply banking back round to land at El Prat De Llobregat airport at around 1pm local time. A straightforward coach transfer from the airport got us to the Urbany Hostel shortly before 3pm. The afternoon and evening provided an opportunity to settle in, figure out the Metro system (easy to use and great value), and sample the local tapas (the Patatas Bravas were very popular and featured regularly for the rest of the trip!).

On Tuesday morning, after breakfast, the whole group met outside the hostel at 9am. After a short period of misinterpreting the map, we made our way on foot to Gaudi’s monumental La Sagrada Familia, a 150 year cathedral building project still under construction. We were overwhelmed by the sheer scale and height of the interior space, the beautiful stained glass, and the intricate stone detailing inside and out. A fascinating exhibition of the development of the cathedral, and Gaudi’s 40 year commitment to the project (exclusively in the last 14 years of his life), captured the processes used to develop the geometry, plaster moulds and models, and the restoration of parts of the building after damaged caused during the Spanish civil war. Large elevation drawings detail the completed project and reveal the extent of building work still to be done, and the breath taking architectural scale of the main central spire. A wonderful visualisation of the finished building (due to be completed in 2026) can be found on YouTube.

The third day started with a slightly shorter walk to the recently opened Museu del Disseny de Barcelona (Barcelona Design Museum). The building occupies a re-developed area in the business district, next door to the Gerkin-like, Agbar Tower. The museum has a dynamic, angular aluminium-clad form, designed by local practice, MBM Arquitectes. A review of the building and architectural drawings can be found here. In addition to the permanent collections, the students enjoyed the ‘Design for Life’ exhibition occupying a large space on the lower ground floor. Curated by Oscar Guayabero, the exhibition is described as ’99 objects for the real world’, with reference to Victor Papanek’s seminal book, Design for the Real World. The work was presented through different themes, but was connected in the remit of sustainable design that responds to real needs and improves peoples’ lives. Among the work was Massoud Hassani’s stunning wind-driven, mine clearing device, ‘Mine Kafon’, and the innovative Hovding airbag helmet for cyclists. There were plenty of projects that related very clearly to some of the design work our students are engaging with.

Thursday morning included a short tram ride down to the waterfront area and beach to take a look at Frank Gehry’s Fish sculpture. The iconic landmark installed as part of the Olympic development for the 1992 games in Barcelona, consists of intertwined strips of gilded stainless steel. The shimmering sunlight on the woven fish surface gives the impression of scales. A 20 minute walk down the coastline took us to the port cable car where we were elevated above the harbour and transported to the Montjuic hilltop location. We spent the afternoon exploring the Olympic park, including the Olympic stadium and the Calatrava tower.

The students enjoyed a very busy few days of sight-seeing and taking in the local culture. Other visits included the Miro Foundation, Gaudi’s ‘Pedrera’ apartment building and Parc Guell, and the Hospital de Sant Pau. The final day provided an opportunity for some last minute shopping and souvenirs before heading home to Falmouth.

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