Sunday, March 28, 2010

Barcelona GBE - a week in one blog post!

Now that I've gotten back to the States and have settled into Q4 (and by "have settled into" I mean "have been hit by the Mack truck that is"....though I think maybe they loaded the Q4 Mack truck just slightly less full than those of the prior quarters), it's time to recap the Barcelona GBE and post some pictures!  Beware, I'm cramming all you ever wanted to know about the Barcelona GBE into this one post, so go grab a cup of coffee, hit up the restroom, and make sure you're in a comfy chair before starting this....

First, to explain the course:
1.) Course name: Design as Strategy
2.) Professor: Jeanne Liedtka (she is amazing!)
3.) Credits: 1.5 credits that count toward the Second Year elective requirement (or equal to a one-quarter long regular class)
4.) Academic requirements/work load: reading a coursepack of articles on Barcelona, strategy, and design; attending about 12 hours of class and participating in reflection/discussion; attending field trips to numerous design and tourist sites; completing a journal of reflections and insights to be handed in upon return to Charlottesville
5.) Cost: Around $3500, including course fee, airfare, and food/beverage/sundry purchases.  You can take out loans to cover these costs.

The trip:
Most of us flew out Friday from DC, connecting through London.  Some of us attempted to do some of our required course readings on the plane or during the connection. 
Darden students at Heathrow

We arrived Saturday afternoon, checked in to the hotel (which was very nice and which is located just down the hill from IESE, in the Pedralbes area of the city), and then went in search of paella and sangria at a nearby restaurant.  We were apparently super excited by the fact that there were orange trees, so that merited some pictures (which will not be posted here).  After eating and a quick trip back to the hotel for cat naps and showers, we rounded up the rest of our classmates and then split into two large groups for dinner and other festivities.  I ended up in a group at the Porto Olimpico, or the port area that was built for the 1992 Summer Olympics and that now features a whole bunch of restaurants, bars, and clubs.  We had a tasty dinner (paella, pictured below, for those who hadn't been with us earlier in the afternoon and tapas or other tasty morsels for the rest of us), and then ended the night at a couple bars in the area (including one that was doctor/nurse themed.  Take note, as this bar will make a repeat appearance in this post).    The other group headed to Las Ramblas, where they enjoyed tapas and sangria and other fun stuff.

Paella - yum!

Day 1
On Sunday, we battled jet lag and got up early to head to class.  We walked up the hill to IESE together and then basically had the entirety of the school to ourselves (there were a couple learning team-type groups of IESE students meeting together, though - so it's not just a Darden thing!).  We talked about design for a couple hours, and then we met up with our first tour guide and boarded a bus to Colonia Guell.  Colonia Guell was a textile mill "colony" established by Eusebi Guell, who was a fairly progressive, wealthy Barcelona resident and a patron of architect Antoni Gaudi.  The Colonia included not only the mill but also houses for the workers, a school, cooperative shops, and a church.  Guell hired Gaudi to design the church for the Colonia, though Gaudi only completed the crypt portion of the church before Guell died and his sons cut off funding.  Pictures of the crypt are below. 

Gaudi's crypt at Colonia Guell

For those unfamiliar with Gaudi, he is known for several things:
1.) Mosaics (example from the exterior of the crypt below).

2.) "Natural" structures - for instance, the Colonia crypt is built of brick, which has been left exposed rather than being hidden behind stucco or the moral equivalent of sheet rock or anything like that. 
3.) Catenary arches - Gaudi actually modelled many of his buildings using inverted chain models, like the replica shown below.  When inverted (as reflected in a mirror and shown below), the arches are self-supporting.  There's a bunch of physics behind the whole concept that I can't articulate well, but our tour guides and the engineers in our class explained it a bunch of times - basically, the forces exerted by gravity when the chain is upside down are equivalent to the forces exerted by the materials when the arch is standing up.

Hanging model of the planned whole church (only the crypt was built)

"Upright" reflected model

Interior arches in the crypt

Following the trip to Colonia Guell, we took the bus to Park Guell.  This was another site where Eusebi Guell hired Gaudi to do the architectural work.  The whole property was intended to be a self-contained residential development of sorts, complete with a market square, a park area, and houses.  However, now it is basically just a park, as again Gaudi was foiled by the issue of funding and the development was stopped mid-process.   At the part, Gaudi focused on tailoring his work to the landscape, rather than terracing the hill and forcing nature to do as he wished. 

Viaduct at Park Guell

Plants along the viaduct at Park Guell

GBE'ers walking down alongside the viaduct

Gaudi also briefly lived at Park Guell in this house:

Part of the plan for the development at Park Guell included a main square on top of an open market of sorts: 

The ceiling of the marketplace, under the square, includes more of Gaudi's trademark mosaics:

At the front entrance to the Park, Gaudi built two houses that I believe were originally intended to hold either shops or community services (like phones, etc.).  I think they look like gingerbread houses:

After we left the Park, folks again rallied to go out, while I succumbed to jet lag and got a nice full night of sleep.

Day 2
On Day 2, we again started with a couple of hours of class at IESE.  By the time we were done with class and walked outside to get on the bus, we were stunned to see that it was SNOWING.  Seriously, the snow seemed to follow us from Charlottesville to Barcelona.  But, it wasn't sticking yet, so we weren't too concerned.  We drove to La Sagrada Familia, another incomplete Gaudi work (are you sensing a theme?).  He had planned the Sagrada Familia to be the "People's Cathedral" of Barcelona.  It is entirely funded by donations; if you pay to go inside and see the museum and the interior, your admission fee funds the construction.  Apparently, if you contribute, you are also being forgiven for your sins.  While, as a business student, I recognize how ingenious that PR campaign may have been in a nominally catholic country, it still smacks slightly of the days of indulgences to me (go brush up on your European history...).  Here's a shot of the front of the cathedral:

Now, the cathedral is still under construction, and they don't intend to have it finished until 2025 (although some estimates extend to 2030 or later).  Allegedly, the Pope will consecrate it in November of this year.  Gaudi started the construction in 1882, and when he designed it, he planned towers that it would have been physically impossible to build given the state of technology at the time.  But, he trusted others to do it.  In fact, only one of the four facades of the church was completed during Gaudi's time (the Nativity facade, shown above).  The Passion facade, pictured below, was completed by Josep M. Subirachs (starting in 1952, well after Gaudi's death).  You can see that it appears dramatically different from the style of the Nativity Facade.


Just take a look at the faces:

Since it was freezing and snowy outside, we were in a rush to get inside, where there is a museum with information about Gaudi, the construction process, and the plans for the cathedral.  During the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, many of the plans/models were destroyed, so the folks working on the cathedral have had to do a lot of re-creating. 
One of the workrooms with some models

We also got to go inside the actual cathedral (the museum is in the basement).  It was a really odd experience for me, as I don't think I've ever been in an unfinished cathedral before.  Thought we arrived during the workers' lunch hour, before we left, we could hear saws and jackhammers and goodness knows what else as they worked.  But it was still pretty cool looking:
Then, when we went to leave, this is what greeted us outside:

Yup, a lot more snow, which was accompanied periodically by wind gusting at gale-force speeds.  Sideways snow is so much fun (especially when you've planned and packed and dressed for 55-degree temperatures)!  When we finally got back onto the bus, we had a couple hours to kill before our scheduled entrance to Casa Mila (La Pedrera), so we decided to drive up a mountain to a cafe where there were allegedly great views of the city.  I bet you're thinking, "It's snowing and you are going to drive UP a MOUNTAIN to see VIEWS through the SNOW?"  Aren't you?  I certainly was.  But I was also just along for the ride.  So we started the trek up the mountain.  About halfway to the top, this is what were were looking at through the bus windows:

Yeah.....about that.  We got to the top only to realize that we no longer had time to get off the bus.  So we started back down the snowy, icy mountain.  Right.  Almost 2 hours later, we arrived at Casa Mila (La Pedrera - meaning "the quarry"), which is an apartment building that Gaudi was commissioned to design by Pere Mila i Camps, a really rich developer married to a really rich widow.  Mila wanted an obnoxiously extravagant showpiece of a building right on the Passeig de Gracia, so he hired Gaudi. 

In 1996, the building was restored, and it now includes an apartment that is set up in the style of the time in which Gaudi lived and a Gaudi museum in the attic.  By this point, I was frankly kinda grumpy after being cooped up on the bus, I was over the snow (see below view from a window at Casa Mila - clearly things were worse on the mountain), and I was virtually incensed by the fact that there was a courtyard in Casa Mila that allowed the blustery cold snow to get "inside."  Go figure. 

The museum in the attic was both cool/creepy.   Apparently, there was some "mood" lighting and some equally odd music being piped in.  But we can again see Gaudi's trademark arches:
There was also a model of the building, including the really cool stuff Gaudi had put on the roof, which we didn't get to see because of the weather:
I'm sure there was a lot more I could have gotten out of the Casa Mila experience, but as I said, I was grumpy.  By the time we'd trekked through traffic to get back to the hotel, I was exhausted, wet, and grumpy, so Julie and I did dinner at the hotel and did some reading for class and fell asleep early.  Yup, I'm lame.

Day 3
The next morning, five of us decided to climb up the icy hill to IESE while the rest of the group took cabs.  Let's just say that climbing was not a brilliant idea, but we made it.  On time, nonetheless.  You can read more about the snow escapades and consequences for Barcelona in my post here.  After another couple hours of class, which included watching part of the movie Picasso: Magic, Sex & Death (it was for magic is as far as we got....), we got back on the dreaded bus to head to the Picasso Museum (our bus driver was amazing, but we managed to scare off our second tour guide (the first had lost her voice after the first day with us)).  The Picasso Museum is located in the Gothic/old city section of Barcelona and features mostly Picasso's early works as opposed to his Cubist masterpieces, which are at places like the Louvre and the Met.  I actually have never been a huge Picasso fan, but it was really neat to see his earlier stuff; he was so incredibly talented at such a young age. 

After that, we walked through the Gothic area (think quintessential narrow European streets and buildings, which I love) back to our bus for a tour of the city. 

Picture from the street outside the Picasso Museum

We visited the Porto Olimpico and the Olympic Stadium on Montjuic....

...we saw the "Face of Barcelona" statue by Roy Lichtenstein...
...and the German Pavilion built by Mies van der Rohe for the International Exposition of 1929.
Apparently, this building was revolutionary for its time, but I think we all just sort of considered it "standard-issue contemporary."  :-)

During our city tour, we also had the chance to take in some views of the city from Montjuic...
...and then we returned to the Gothic area of the city to visit the Catedral de Barcelona and some other landmarks. 
Cloister in the cathedral

One of the cathedral's residents

A shot of the interior.

Following the city tour, a big group of us grabbed excellent tapas at one of the nearby restaurants.

Day 4
Wednesday was a "class-free" day, and we set out on a all-day field trip to the Dali Museum in Figueras.  That was an experience!  I am convinced that Dali was on super terrific mind-altering substances.  He actually designed this museum himself, which means it is completely absurd.  Unlike most museums, there seems to be little rhyme or reason to the layout.  Even the exterior is ridiculous:
Yup, those are eggs on the roof, little Oscar figurines over the entrance, traditional "breads" on the exterior, and sinks on the walls of the courtyard.  Craaazzzzyyy.

I don't know how many of you like Dali's work, but I personally have never really "gotten" surrealism (which is part of the point, right?).  I did think the picture below was cool:
It's a picture of his wife (Gala, who appears in many of his pictures) looking in the mirror.  But it's also Abraham Lincoln.  Do you see both?  How about now:
Dali is also buried in the museum:
After the museum, we wandered around Figueres for a little while, bought really tasty pastries, and then headed to the town of Girona to see the Jewish Quarter and eat lunch.

Outside a church in Figueres

Check out the cows!

Bridge and cathedral in Girona

View down the canal in Girona

After Girona, we drove the Besalu, which is an adorable Gothic fort/city, to see the Jewish baths before heading home. 

Besalu - totally beautiful

Some of the girls in front of a church in Besalu - yes, there were an outrageous number of green coats

Part of the bridge in Besalu

When we got back to Barcelona, we went out with Professor Lipson (who had joined us on Monday and was departing on Thursday) to dinner to celebrate SS's 30th bday.  We had a delicious Basque meal (we had the restaurant to ourselves), drank delicious wine, and then went out to a disco and then a club at the Porto Olimpico.  I think we all ended up getting back to the hotel sometime between 4 am and 6 am. 

Day 5
The next day was our "free day" to explore the city on our own (which partially explains why we were all so willing to stay out partying the night before).  Julie and I headed to Casa Batllo, another Gaudi building.  This was by far my favorite of his works. 
Casa Batllo from across the street

 He did a lot of cool things there, including this cool bit of the ceiling: 
....some cool mosaic work on the exterior:
...and a really neat blue tile effect on the interior courtyard walls that was designed to look like water and also help lighten the inside the of the building:
He also did a lot of work on the top of the building, including mosaic-ing the chimneys and constructing this dragon-like detail and cross:
Don't see the dragon?  How about now:
Do you see the dragon's back and scales?

After the leaving the whimsical Casa Batllyo, we walked a couple miles to La Sagrada Familia to see it again without the snow whipping into our faces.  On the walk there, we realized that Barcelona doesn't really have "street corners" in the typical sense of the work.  Instead of streets intersection at 90-degree angles, there are sort of blunt edges at the "corner" of each block, which means that you get to see cool architecture like this:

I think it really helps brighten the intersections, though it is a little inconvenient if you're a pedestrian trying to cross the street.  I guess I'm too used to marching through cities; the extra steps involved in detouring to the crosswalk started to irritate me by the end of our hike.

We didn't pay to go into the Sagrada Familia again, but here are some exterior shots in snow-free daylight:
Detail on one of the towers

Detail of the Nativity Facade

Tree with doves

See, look!  A palm tree!  In sunshine!  This is what Barcelona should look like!

The towers above the Passion Facade

After La Sagrada Familia, we took the Metro to the Gothic area and walked around doing some shopping.  We also stopped by the Mercat de Boqueria, a huge market.  I wish I had access to a kitchen, because I would have bought a ton of fresh produce and meat to cook!
By the end of the day, I was exhausted (probably from all the fresh air and walking, not to mention the previous night's activities), so I grabbed a sandwich for dinner and fell asleep almost embarassingly early. 

Day 6
Friday was the last official day of the GBE.  Unfortunately, it was also the day that the Barcelona plague really began to take down members of our group, including my roommate Julie.  After a wrap-up session in class, we headed out to explore design through food (think el Bulli and molecular gastronomy...or Marcel on Top Chef).  We went to Restaurant Coure, a Barcelona restaurant known for deconstructing food and other inventive stuff (and where the brother-in-law of our tour guide is the chef/proprietor).  As an aspiring foodie, I loved it, though some of my less adventuresome classmates were put off by some of the dishes, I think.

We started with a demonstration and talk with the chef about his creative process.  Unfortunately, he only spoke Catalan and Spanish, so LW became our default translator (it's always helpful to have a native Spanish speaker on a trip to Spain...).   

Above, the chef is making a "deconstructed pizza," the final result of which is here:

He also demonstrated a deconstructed "onion soup," which was the first course that we got to eat:
We also ate (pictured, in order, below) razor clams with some some sort of tasty pesto, ox tail and potatoes, and a passion fruit mousse topped with coconut foam and crystalized mint. 
TK, who trained at Le Cordon Bleu in London last year, and I really enjoyed it!
After lunch, the GBE was officially over.  :-(  RH and I did some shopping on the walk back to the hotel (Zara and H&M are still much cooler in Europe), I took a brief nap, checked on my poor sickly roommate, and then a bunch of us headed out to an opera and flamenco performance.  It made me really wish I had dancing skills!  Then we headed over the the Placa Espana and the Spanish Palace, where they light up the fountains on Friday and Saturday nights and do a Bellagio-style fountain show (though clearly it was done in Barcelona first).  It was absolutely beautiful!
RH, me, TK, and TB in front of the fountains

View of the city from the Spanish Palace

We then grabbed tapas and sangria on Las Ramblas (where some of our classmates had befriended a waiter the prior Saturday), hit up a bar (called Cheers, I think, which I recall offended me as a prior Boston resident) and headed back to the Porto Olimpico and the doctor/nurse themed bar (and some others) before calling it a night.  All in all, a great day!

Day 7
While the official scheduled events were over, several of us had planned to spend an extra day or two in Barcelona before flying home (Q4 classes didn't start until Tuesday).  Although a few more people came down with the plague, Julie seemed largely recovered, and we had planned to stay at a hotel with AM and AA.  We quickly discovered that the nice cheap hotel we had booked was actually located way far away in the 'burbs (yeah...Q3 didn't really leave a lot of time for great research!), but we found a computer and located a hotel downtown.  After dragging our luggage over there on the Metro (it was a workout!), we grabbed lunch and then headed to Montjuic to go to the Miro museum.  If I thought I didn't "get" Dali, I certainly don't "get" Miro...but I'm glad I went to the Museum, because if I hadn't, I always would have felt that I should have.  Since we had already taken the funicular up the mountain, we figured, hey, let's take the gondola the rest of the way up!  On the way, we ran into three huge Barca fans buying gondola tickets:

AA and the Barca fans

But the views on the ride up the mountain were beautiful, and it was a great ride.

Me, AA and JB (AM was the designated photographer for this shot) with Barcelona in the background

At the top of the mountain is the Castell de Montjuic (a fortress/castle dating to 1640).  The castle itself was really cool, and the views were absolutely amazing!

Castell de Montjuic

Next to the courtyard at the center of the castle...I was feeling "artsy"

Me in front of the fortress

Afterward, we took the gondola and funicular back down the mountain and split off from the boys.  Julie and I grabbed dinner, walked around the Gothic section of the city again, saw some Barcelonians dancing the sardana outside the Catedral de Barcelona (pictures below), and then headed back to the hotel to rest up for the journey home on Sunday (which took forever but included a nice layover at Heathrow, where we were able to window shop at Tiffany & Co. and actually shop at Harrods; that is one dangerous airport!). 
Folks dancing the sardana

Outside the Catedral at night

And now all of you should feel like you've visited Barcelona, too!


  1. This is quite the researched post. Good job... I learned things. (Don't tell Jeanne... at least until our grades are finalized.)

  2. Really an interesting trip. I love traveling but i have not enough money to travel outside of my country. Thanks again.