Day 7 (Day Off 6th June – Amateur Hour)
As written by accompanying sponsor representative. Me
Today is ‘kind of a day off’. Its Sunday, we are in Barcelona and most everything is closed. I mean ‘kind of
a day off’ because the “Fab 5” will still be walking all over to see buildings they have only read about or revisiting old favourites. Very “kind” of day off to me.
As for me I have been here once before and loved it. But when people have asked what is it about the place that I like I really can’t quite put my finger on it. So the challenge I set my self was to try and understand exactly why I like a city like Barcelona so much.
I’ve found that the best way to get to know a city is to hoof it. Besides, Oliver needs a walk.
First thing noticed is the way pedestrians and cyclists are kept separate from the cars. When you’re out taking your dog for a walk, you have a choice. You can walk on either a traditional foot path next to the town houses that make up most of the city’s buildings or you can cross the small side street that allows access to driveways and side streets to a tree lined boulevard. Of which there are two running along the city’s main axis. Think Building, footpath, side street (one car width with parking) Boulevard, Big main access road of four lanes. Boulevard and so on till you reach the other side.
Cleverly the city planners have lined each side of the boulevards with low growing orange scented shrubs punctuated with plane trees every 10 meters or so. You don’t feel like you’re walking up the middle of a road at all. In fact your mood starts to pick up as you walk. These avenues of plane trees are not just along the main axes. Nearly every street is tree lined.
I felt myself being drawn along to what I might find at the end. But as with every journey it’s the things you see along the way rather than the destination that holds the true value.
As I was being drawn along “Gran Via de Les Corts Catalanes” the buildings started to come a little more to life. All 5 to 8 storeys, most with very small balconies with ornate steal surrounds. So similar, but all so very different. It seems there is no such thing as off the shelf here, It was all custom. It was from one of these balconies I saw an old lady smiling to the world in her very demure and appropriate night dress. That in its self wasn’t the surprising part. At first I thought she was holding a child in her arms. Grand mama showing off to the world I thought. Lovely. But then she made one of the arms wave at me. It turns out to be a soft toy monkey. I give her (and the monkey) a wave and move on. Once again I feel my mood pick up.
For some reason I start thinking of the truly mad things around here. (as we are on an architecture tour ) The architecture of Goudi came to the front of mind. Not the details mind, just the mad genius of it, and how did he get away with it? No town planner in his right mind would let anyone to build like that.
It seems Goudi started a tradition in the building of the extraordinary here. Oliver and I end up at the Monjuic Communication Tower (Telefonica) Designed by Santiago Calatrava, It looks like it should be the home of Thunder Bird One. But it doesn’t end there. Jean Nouvel, Foster, Rodgers and Herzog & de Meuron have all been able to create brilliant if slightly wild projects here.
So what is it about Barcelona? Spain is fairly conservative over all. As much as it’s not the capitol (Madrid holds that responsibility) Barcelona is the second son, so to speak. May be that’s it, It doesn’t need to take itself too seriously. It will never be King! Think Andrew to Charles, or Harry to William.
Wear what it wants to, flirt with whoever it wants to.
It’s one of those personalities that can put on a funny hat and not only get away with it but make the hat look good!
Barcelona is out to have a good time. Pleasingly, it doesn’t mind if you tag along.
Back to the Fab 5 tomorrow.