Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Adios Espana, Ciao Italia

So, I have officially been back home for over a month now and I feel like its about time I wrapped up the Europe blog. Over the next few days, we will go all the way from Valencia to Rome.

Our last two stops in Spain were Valencia and Barcelona, with modern architecture a plenty and lots of famous buildings from the likes of Calatrava, Nouvel, Van der Rohe and Gaudi. Valencia itself is an interesting city in that it really does not feel very Spanish at all...at least in the way of the popular architecture, sure there is the typical bull ring of most Spanish cities and the cuisine, but it just seems to take a back seat to more modern standards. Home to Santiago Calatrava, Valencia has really developed into a showcase for his work and has a special area dedicated just to him and his design. This massive complex is almost like a playground design strait from his imagination and developed on a large scale. A series of about five buildings are laid out within sight of each other and are connected through various walkways and reflecting pools.
View Across the Reflecting Pool

It's really a lot to take in at once, with most buildings looking like they are right out of the Star Wars universe. They all have a different function such as museums, garden, aquarium, auditorium and even a pedestrian bridge. Structurally, the buildings are a tribute in themselves to the advancement of structural engineering with soaring cantilevers and overhangs, but at times lack a fluid continuity between each other. There really is no common point and kind of feels like an amusement park at times but never-the-less, is a true attention getter.
View from side of Calatrava's Science Museum

Barcellona was officially the last city in Spain and is known for such historical architecture as the works of Gaudi and the much loved, Barcelona Pavilion by Meis van der Rohe. These are some of the most talked about buildings no matter if you study architecture or not, you have probably heard about these at some point. If you are looking at taking a look into some of these buildings while in Spain, be prepared to wait in line, crowds flock to these all day.  Gaudi's Sagrada Familia has been in construction for well over one hundred years and still attracts crowds around the block to get a glimpse inside the sand-castle appearance of the church. The Barcellona Pavilion is a little easier to get into and was also a real treat to see the huge slabs of stone that make up the walls and to get a look at the famous dancing lady. The much copied, never duplicated pavilion still holds up well to works of the modern era.
Dancing Lady of Barcelona Pavilion

One of the most recent additions to Barcelona and the most promenade on the skyline in the tower of Torre Agbar by Jean Nouvel. The tower itself is clad in thousands of glass panels the give it a distinctive look and add a outside layer to the concrete shell. At night, the tower lights up in a brilliant display of blue and red that can be seen from far away. Security on the inside is pretty tight and only about half the bottom floor is open to the public with pictures being limited, a real shame when you know that some of the best work is locked away, never to be seen by the public. Regardless, its an excellent interpretation of a modern day skyscraper and extremely hard to miss.
Torre Agbar

All in all, Barcelona has what you expect from such a large city with two much to see over a course of three days. Over that time, I actually felt like I had walked around every street in the city as much as my feet hurt. You'd be surprised how easy it is to get turned around when looking for a giant skyscraper. I can say that I learned a couple of important things while in Spain, the most important being to never trust the food and that Guns N' Roses will literally play in any city I am in a week before or after I leave.
Missed Connections

Up next, a very quick trip back to France and wrapping it up in Italy...

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