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Barcelona: A City in Motion July 12, 2010

Posted by tcotton6 in Travel Log.
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Hello everyone!

(written 6/1/10)

If you are reading this, then I hope you get a sense of the vast opportunities that we travelers have to be thankful for. It is really a gift that we can be where we are.

from the top of Motjuic Castle

That being said, I want to paint a quick picture of what it is like to be in Barcelona for 10 weeks (2 so far). This program is comprised of 8 weeks of class, split up into three chunks, with two separate week-long breaks during the trip. This, of course, means an accelerated schedule is necessary in order to get the full class load in, but the 12 hours are very well paced to complete in a reasonable fashion. The four classes I am taking are: Cities and Citizens, a class on the effect of cities on the people who inhabit them and vice versa, which also takes a pointed look into some of the design problems associated with Atlanta; Computational Photography, which focuses on the whole spectrum of pre-picture to post-production photo-development; Culture and Mind, a broad reaching cognitive science course that touches on psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, etc., and also has a very active, discussion based class layout; and finally Architecture, Design, and Material Culture, which looks at Barcelona as a microcosm for how to understand cities as intersections of various design and built environments. Each class has some sort of project-based assignment that takes us into the city looking to retrieve new and refreshing ideas about culture and design.

Barcelona is very much an active, vibrant city, and has been the subject of much critical attention over the last ~30 years for its political reformation, economic prosperity, and city rehabilitation. In 1976, Barcelona and the rest of Catalunya saw the end of 30 years of dictatorship with the death of Franco. Since then, the city has been under the leadership of a few very hard working and committed officials that were able to extract a great deal of support from the community in rebuilding Barcelona by focusing on neighborhood redevelopment, public art installation, park allotments, and new infrastructure that freed up much of the congestion from the major pedestrian areas. Also, the 1992 Olympics brought miles of new beaches along the Costa Brava frequented now by locals and tourists alike.

Thus, Barcelona today is energetic, airy, light, and happy. I have seen about a bucket full of rain in the last two weeks. Most days are bright and sunny, a warm 75-85F during the day and 55-65F at night. I usually leave my windows open at night and wake up to kids from the neighboring elementary school playing soccer beneath my window. The residence we are staying in is a short walk from the Sagrada Familia, the Ciutadella beaches, and a metro stop connecting us to the rest of the city and the university at which we take classes. The local supermarket nestles itself neatly under the northwest corner of our building. We really could not ask for a better location.

So far I have been fairly active and have gotten to many of the major attractions of the city, but not all. I have been to the top of Montjuic (the mountain at the southwest edge of the old city), the Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, much of the old city, the new Herzog and de Meuron Forum, and many others. There is still, though, so much to see in this intricate urban fabric.

Next week we will be taking a week long trip to Morocco, which will of course be well annotated on this page. Other future trips include cliff jumping along the southern Costa Brava, a trip to Portgal to Lisbon and Peniche, a surfing town (some of the best in Europe!), Amsterdam, and some other parts of Spain. Stay tuned for updates. Thanks for reading, and see you soon!

wade

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