To visit the Gothic Quarter is to be inundated with representation from histories upon histories. As I walked, I viewed each door as a portal to a history, whether secret or publicized, momentary or seemingly immortal. Each had its own personality: obliging, stand-offish, sophisticated, haunting, prophetic. As they open, close, lock, and even disappear with time, they have a profound effect on the people traveling through them. They constantly shift the flow of circulation, reflect architectural trends through materials and design, and speak greatly to the transient nature of privacy and publicity. Each has its own place in the larger time continuum and reminds us of the interval of ours.
29 August, 2007
In my brief exploration of the city, I was drawn to the numerous contrasting styles of art, architecture, people, and energy. It is this variety of cultures, languages, and people that make Barcelona the metropolitan hot spot that it is. In order to represent this idea of the city being a sort of "melting pot" for all sorts of people, lifestyles, architecture, etc I juxtaposed images showing differing takes on similar ideas. There are elderly people as well as young, ornate doorways and pizza take out shops, and so on.
I put two pictures of groups of people focusing in different directions at the top and bottom of my presentation. That is because Barcelona is a completely different city to one person than it is to another. One's perception of the city depends solely on their perspective.
28 August, 2007
More than any other area in Barcelona, the Gothic Quarter demonstrates the continuing evolution of art in modern cities. Juxtaposed against a backdrop of floral iron work and holy stone statues, graffiti stands out not only in conflict with the old world, but also as a complement. Where in some areas the two worlds exist in harmony, in others, graffiti is directly responsible for the erosion of ancient decoration. The center column of my piece is an amalgamation of stone and metal workings from the old world--a storm drain with a classical coat of arms, a lion door knocker, and a stacked column from the outside of a church. The images flanking the column are various pieces of urban artwork. Some of them, like the ones on the top right and left corners, stand out because they are commenting on social issues in the city. The rest of the images are used as a more colorful way to advertise businesses on garage doors--a new way of communicating with locals and tourists instead of the much older iron-wrought signs.
The strictly pedestrian areas in Barcelona’s Barri Gotic present a complex new set of spatial arrangements and architectural hierarchy quite unlike those in Clemson, South Carolina. The points in these areas where streets intersect seem to demand a more aggressive response from the architecture of building corners. A large open plaza, a dense residential quarter, and an ancient cathedral perimeter each afforded their own corner styles to my stroll through the region, the details of them raising questions of transition, building unity, and historical programming. This single architectural element clearly held a decided importance, for the architects of Barcelona’s past.
When looking back on my first walk through Barcelona’s Barri Gotic, the constant shifting and pulsing of winding, small, dim spaces and grand, light-filled spaces is what most prominently flickered in the back of my mind like a fast-forwarded movie of intense light and shadow. Intense and exciting is certainly a way to describe the spatial experience that the Barri Gotic offers. I cannot think of any place I’ve been where the simple act of walking from street to square and back to a street could be so powerful. I quickly decided that I wanted to try and document this unique experience. Most importantly, I wanted to record the amount of light within the space because to me it was the biggest varying factor from street-to-street, or plaza-to-plaza. Capturing video of a short walk through the area and pulling still frames, I then put those frames together in order to create a scale/bar-coding type of timeline. My attempt was to map the Barri Gotic’s rapidly fluctuating scale and variety of space with its equally diverse behavior of light within those spaces. In the end, the darker segments on the video produced “scale” represented the smallest spaces and vice versa. By reducing the documentation of my walk down to the experience’s basic tonal qualities, I was able to translate that pulsating image of light and shadow (that I remember so vividly from my first Barri Gotic encounter) into a more legible form.
The experience of space has more to do with the density of activity than it does with the actual physical area of a space. In the Barri Gotic of Barcelona, wide main streets are punctuated with narrow side streets, winding away from the bustle of Carrer de Ferran and Carrer de Portaferrissa.
While these two streets are wide, the feeling of spaciousness is lessened by the number of people on the street. People weave through each other, bump into each other and talk to each other. The street is full. To take a narrow side street, empty of people, provides an immediate emptiness and spaciousness.
The difference is in density. The fact that this density is a dynamic one -- a movement and interaction of people -- is a testament to the temporality of the perception of permanence. Spaces are used and defined as if they could be no other way; but if the movement of people were to change, the perception of a space would change as well.
The Barri Gotic is famous for a number of reasons, but one distinct characteristic is the profusion of facade art that is not present in some of the older parts of Barcelona. It was my conclusion that this trait of the Barri Gotic stems from the difficulty of architectural expression when each building is joined to another, so that most structures only have a single facade. Religious beliefs, ethnicity, social standing... information about all of these can be drawn from the walls around you. At times, one might wonder if the apparent beauty of a structure is no more than skin deep... if the impression of social standing and wealth that a structure conveys might be nothing but a lie.
Grand buildings frame winding streets on all sides, leaving the wanderer feeling as a rat in a maze. When the grid is not clear, the views are blocked, and the street names unfamiliar, what guides wanderers through the Barri Gotic? The answer is that people turn to their instincts and follow architectural clues. I observed that the bulk of visitors stayed or moved toward places with more light. Also drawing walkers in were smoother, less cluttered (by balconies, plants, etc.) walls, which indicated public space and intended walkways. The images shown on the left convey the maze like nature of the barri Gotic, show people walking to bright areas, and with the largest image, show how the buildings are what define the path.
27 August, 2007
sirens, languages, bells tolling--communication is layered all around us.
from cables to signs, information is sent and received in ways we sometimes don't even realize. the worn materials of the gothic quarter communicate to us that what we're seeing is old, and has been weathered by use and the presence of life. the graffiti is probably most out of place among the gothic style, with its bright color scheme. while we have common conceptions of it being a taboo art, it seems to have a sophistication of its own. the various levels of street art, flyers, numbers, and building material are all layered. this layering is a direct juxtaposition, and shows no bias. newer forms of expression hold their place as yet another layer in the complex system of communication we humans have established for ourselves.
strolling through the trendy Born district in the old city, i noticed something strange about its main rambla. one side of the street appeared to be much more commercialized than the other. this secondary side contained older residential buildings, many of them with "for sale" or "rent" signs displayed. i captured this main street with a series of photos that were then put together to make one big picture. after strolling the side streets that feed into the paisseg del born's commercialized side, i hypothesized that it was these filter streets that helped in the development of the one side. the side streets themselves each boasted a life of their own, feeding the paisseg del born further.
this is a visual expression of the striking entryways as contrasting elements to building materials capturing a somewhat overlooked portion of many buildings. through these different doors, the colors, juxtaposition of open and closed, public versus private, and engaged atmosphere found throughout the city were the main elements and focus.
Plaza del Bonsucces - A relatively quiet plaza off of carrer d'Elisabets, it was a refreshing change from the artificiality and clamor of La Rambla. In the center of this arboreal enclosure was a near medieval pump-well adjacent to a classical breezeway. This area had all the components of a Roman and Renaissance town; frieze and tympanum adornment, finely crafted iron worked lamps, and roman archways. Yet on nearly doorway, garage, and expanse of wall was graffiti. Whatever the opinion of this urban art may be, it was there. For the observer, it is now just as equally a part of this area as the quoins or stucco. The layer of cultural elements tell the history of this sleepy, medieval Spanish town turned thriving, international metropolis.
I analyzed these layers through the use of panoramic shots of the walls lining the street. One can see the spill of modernism from La Rambla into a near ancient Roman park and cafe. The other graphical elements are used to reinforce this Urban layering.
Walking through the city of Barcelona, Spain, you tend to recognize the different forms of light and how they have changed throughout the years. During the Gothic period, light was an important characteristic of the architecture with the use of windows. Windows were often filled with stained glass. This stained glass added colorful light to the interior of the building. A difference can be seen between the windows of the Gothic period and the windows in today's architecture. The city today also relies more on artificial light opposed to natural light. The map at the top of the montage represents the path I traveled through the Barri Gotic area. I started in the more modern areas and finished my journey at the Cathedral of Barcelona. A change in the architecture is seen through the entire journey and especially with the windows. As a viewer of the montage, you get a feeling as if you are looking up towards the top of a building. This is very important because it correlates to the height of the windows on the walls of the buildings in this area. To obtain a valuable look at the windows in person, you must look high on the walls. Through this project, I have learned how artistic and important of a purpose the windows served in the Gothic period.
When starting my journey through the Gothic area of Barcelona I did not know exactly what I was looking for or where I was going. While meandering the area and weaving in and out of different styles of streets it hit me. The area I was walking, in my mind, was divided into two different types of streets-wide and narrow. I noticed not just that there were two different types of streets but that there was a relationship to the sun with both of them. The wider streets were where the tourists were and where the chain stores and souvenir shops were. Also, the wider streets were aligned in a East-West direction making them have more natural light. The narrower streets were where the locals were and an occasional tourist passing by, but more so they were aligned opposite that of the wider streets. They were narrow and did not get much sunlight because of their relationship to the suns path. Also I noticed more balconies on the wider public streets than on the narrow intimate streets. The stroll really made me think beyond just that there are buildings around me. It made me take a critical analysis on the space I was walking through.
Public Spaces in Barri Gotic
Here is my attempt at mapping a brief excursion into the Barri Gotic. I focused on recording the size of the public spaces (streets and plazas) and the density of pedestrians using those spaces. With that information, I was able to extrapolate the "comfort level" one would feel within each of the spaces I visited on my journey.
This is what I did for the first assignment. After taking pictures of the Barri Gotic, moving through the different streets and into the public spaces, I was interested in the parts of the buildings that I could truly identify as 'gothic'; pointed arches, gargoyles, faded stone color and intricate details. Being from an area where cars are the preferred means of transportation, I enjoyed being able to experience public space and walking between those public spaces on roads and walkways that were dominated by pedestrians. I wanted to reiterate my entire experience walking through the Gothic Quarter into a single image. I created a type of perspective view from the point of view at the end of a street. I created a resonant image but I most likely missed out on an attempt to be more analytical and informative about what the Barri Gotic is and how it is composed. Some of the details that I could have pointed out are the types of building elements that make them have a gothic feel, ie the gargoyles, pointed arches and aging parts of the buildings. It also would have helped to identify two or three specific public spaces, such as plazas, streetsides and corners to fully communicate the nature of the Barri Gotic's pedestrian experience, along with the architectural details. That way I could have better given a feel of the mood and nature of walking through the Barri Gotic.
This is the first project of the Barcelona Fall 2007 semester. The project was to look at space while walking the streets in Barcelona. My objective in the project started by just taking pictures in the Barri Gotic (Gothic quarter). On accident, I took a picture of a couple kissing, as shown in the left corner. Here is where I developed my concept: How people affect the space we are in. I then chose to follow different paths to see how different people interact with each other on the street. There were people of all ages engaging in some kind of activity. On person who struck my eye, was this elderly woman who was feeding the pigeons. She was even going out of her way to put the bread by water so they could eat and drink at the same time. These acts where done more on the quiet streets, the smaller, narrower ones. In the square however, there was much more activity, and surprisingly, more public displays of affection. Here, kissing, hand holding and hugging were much more prevalent. I've known these displays to be more coveted, reserved for a quieter spot. Maybe the people felt more comfortable in a larger spot because there was much more activity and it would seem unnoticed. Whatever the reason may be, it really was a sight to see. People watching, is something all of us engage in, but do you really take the time to see how it affect your surroundings? Its all of these people who make the space come alive.
While exploring the city of Barcelona, I observed many different aspects of what city life was like. The Barri Gotic in Barcelona shows a lot of history in its buildings, and as I walked through this area I did notice the juxtaposition of new buildings and store fronts against old Plazas and cathedrals. One thing I found interesting was the prevalence of surveillance cameras that were installed under angels or gargoyles of Gothic churches. I found this a tad out of place within the context of the old architecture. New art, such as graffiti, is everywhere in the city, and provides an interesting comparison with the old architecture and art work, such as the stained glass in the cathedrals. I took a lot of detailed photos on the wear of the stone on buildings. I also took pictures of other evidences of life in the city. When I think of a city, I think of pollution problems and little evidence of life other than humans, bugs, and rats. I discovered that there was a lot of evidence of plants, some on balconies, other growing out of buildings, and others decorating plazas. This gave me a feeling that the city was healthy if it could support plant life. Within the many intersecting, weaving alleyways and roads of stone, there was at least some green breaking through.