Arriving at Bristol airport in snow, we were relieved to be heading towards slightly warmer climes! Our hostel was conveniently situated right next to the Torre Agbar, which shone as a Technicolor beacon over Barcelona. On the second day, we headed out together to La Sagrada Familia. Gaudi’s biomimicricy starkly contrasted the other gothic cathedrals. We were all struck by the amazing space and light created by the flowing stonework and crazed stained glass. The museum below was the most revealing; being a work in progress, you can watch design teams working on scale models. They’re using modern technology, such as 3D printing, to bring Gaudi’s designs to life.
Park Guell is another of Gaudi’s masterpieces. With stunning views over Barcelona, the mosaic tiles set off Gaudi’s distinctive, flowing architecture. Similarly, visiting the Casa Mila, now commonly known as La Pedrera on the last day was one of the architectural highlights. With the help of an audio guide we explored the roof top, attic and one of the apartments showing how they use to live back when the apartments were originally built. On the roof top you were able to wander around freely and admire the vast view of Barcelona. At two ends there was strategically placed arches which framed two iconic buildings in Barcelona. After we explored the roof tops and admired Gaudi’s work we then went into the attic. In here you could admire the brickwork and the arched skeleton like design which runs throughout. The audio tour explained the attics ceiling as a person’s hat, and the roof as their umbrella giving the building protection from the sun and summer heat. Throughout the attic there were models of some of Gaudi’s famous buildings, examples of his collection of natural objects, from a snake’s skeleton to drift wood. They also showed us replicas of the furniture Gaudi’s designed showing how he’s thought about the ergonomics and how these would be pick up and carried. We then went into an apartment where you could wander around most of the rooms and admire how the Catalans would have lived in these apartments back when it was first originally built. Natural light flooded in from both outside the building and from the two wells that you can look down in at the top. So the apartments felt comfortable and warming.
La Boqueria market on La Rambla perfectly displayed the Catalan love of well presented food. From dainty olives to extravagant fruit displays, they take the layout seriously – it’s an art form in itself.
The brand new Design Museum was the highlight of the visit. Their ‘Design For Life’ exhibition fitted perfectly within the ethos of our course. The product and services were designed for disability, disaster zones and other global issues. Perhaps most valid was Barcelona’s pedestrian crossing system, which interacts with a mobile phone app for those with visual impairments – these were implemented throughout the city. The design museum also had exhibits on smart fabrics, city planning, furniture, Spanish period design, women’s fashion and graphic design. There was something for everyone!
Many of us took the cable car from the rejuvenated beach front up to the Olympic Park. Like Park Guell, it has amazing views over the city. It’s difficult to imagine how it would have been during the Olympics with thousands of people. All that’s left now is an impressive empty space!
Another highlight was Disney Pixar’s 25th anniversary exhibition. They had displays of initial sketches (complete with the artists annotations) combined with 3D models of our favourite characters. Visually, the sketches were stunning as well as displaying the complex development process involved. Furthermore, Pixar has started to employ technology such as 3D printing in more recent years, moving away from hand clay modelling – a shift reflecting the whole of the design industry.
Overall, Barcelona’s architecture was inspirational in itself. The above visits were great motivation, and a great way to bond as a course.
Hannah Smith & Jess Morgan (Stage 2, BA(Hons) Sustainable Product Design)