The second day of our trip began with a drive through the center of the city down the Diagonal Avenue. Professor Babasikas talked about the history of Barcelona and its effect on the city’s structure and architecture, specifically the population boom of the late 1950’s that called for a redevelopment of the city. The city held many architectural competitions and formed a college for modern design resulting in an influx of architects from the 1960’s-1980’s. The 1992 Olympics continued this trend with the help of mayor Pasqual Maragall i Mira who also had the profession of a planner. This led to even more development accompanied with successful implementation. Today, it seems that everything in Barcelona is made for the tourism industry. Many buildings are being turned into swanky hotels, bicycle infrastructure is on the rise, and the seaside continues to be developed with restaurants and bars. The result is a beautifully laid out city with every street as photogenic as the next, but it can be difficult to get a sense of what the “true” Barcelona is rather than what they believe tourists want to see.
We walked along the 1992 Olympic Village located on Barcelona’s waterfront. The area is now lined with many nighttime entertainment venues and restaurants with the athlete housing turned into apartments and hotels. After talking to our professor, I managed to get him to alter our schedule so that we could go visit Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion. After learning about this building in depth through Professor Friedman’s Extraordinary Interiors course, I was not about to let this opportunity pass up. Mies built this pavilion for the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona and it is one of the first examples of true modern architecture. Everything in this structure is so purposefully planned out and deliberate, with the luxurious materials making it feel like a palace. With the walls opening up the exterior, the building is a continuous space that blurs inside and outside. Truly a wonderful space created by a man well ahead of his time.
Lunch was in the Barceloneta District located along another part of Barcelona’s coast. I had a delicious fish entree with sauce outside in the sunshine before having to run back to catch our bus. Our afternoon was all about Gaudi. It began with a tour of the Sagrada Familia, perhaps Gaudi’s most famous work. The building is absolutely massive and is seen in all of the depictions of Barcelona’s skyline. After seeing such a modern building by Mies, the Sagrada Familia was almost overwhelming with its intricate detail on both the exterior and interior. Outside, cranes and scaffolding cover much of the building as construction continues in the hopes of finishing the cathedral by 2026 (100 years after Gaudi’s death). Personally, I am skeptical of this deadline. Inside, I found the rainbow stained class a bit distasteful, but loved the representation of nature through the tree-like columns that create an interior forest. Our second Gaudi inspired activity was a visit to Park Guell. Originally planned to be an upperclass living community, the project flopped but was then turned into a park. Now tourists eagerly wait in a crowd so that they can take a picture in the most photogenic spot ever created (see the photo of Christina and me sitting on the bench).
After a brief walk around the Gracia neighborhood, we had the evening free. Opting to take the 45 minutes walk back to the hotel instead of the metro, we got to see more of downtown Barcelona before the sun set. We made a pitstop at the food market off of Les Ramblas for freshly squeezed juices and mojito popsicles (delicious). For dinner, we were determined to eat every possible tapas Barcelona had to offer. The plates included chorizo, croquetas, marinated mussels, patatas bravas, a selection of cheeses, and tripe. The tripe was our “adventurous” plate you could say and it did not disappoint. Served with a spicy tomato sauce and garbanzo beans, you almost forgot that you were eating the stomach lining of some unknown animal.