Barcelona: A laboratory for
by Jane Ford
students sketch at the Parc del Clot, a new urban space
in Barcelona, built on the site of a former railway industrial
complex. The park incorporates sections of the original
ironworks with lawns, grassy mounds, pools and a row
of arches that resemble an aquaduct and support a cascading
By Jane Ford
Spain — Andrea Drake paced off the perimeter, while Clark
Tate and Elisa Niemack sketched the church across a narrow,
busy street that borders one side of an empty urban lot. Michael
Lewis took photographs.
students are part of a group of 23 U.Va. first-year graduate
architecture and landscape architecture students, in Barcelona,
Spain, for a nine-day immersion into the city’s architecture,
landscape, culture and history. This is the fourth year that
U.Va. graduate architecture school students have visited Barcelona.
The city is their laboratory for learning.
densely populated coastal city is a contemporary city of contrasts
that blend and respond to the Catalan culture. La Ramblas,
a main pedestrian thoroughfare featuring cafés, flower stalls, news stands,
street artists and bird stalls, is packed with people at all hours; the Museum
of Contemporary Art, which was built in an area undergoing extensive redevelopment,
reflects light inside as well as onto the plaza where skateboarders practice
and people bask in the sun; at neighborhood parks children play ball and adults
gather to talk; old buildings, renovated buildings and contemporary architecture
sit side by side; the centuries-old close attention to construction materials,
details and craftsmanship is evident everywhere; all provide a rich resource
for the students to explore not only the relationship between architecture
and landscape but also the successful blending of historical and contemporary
program in Barcelona embodies what U.Va. is saying they are
trying to do in combining the architecture and landscape architecture
programs,” said architecture student Elisa Niemack.
Barcelona, the students learn to understand how a different
country, a different culture use their space, said architecture
professor Kenneth Schwartz. He and professors Earl Mark and
Nancy Takahashi led the students on the trip.
day the group visits parks, plazas and buildings where the
students stop to sketch — learning to capture a sense
of place in a short period of time. They analyze each site,
filling sketchbooks with drawings, diagrams and notes — recording
details about the building materials and how they are made
and used, as well as the light, sound and movement through
architecture student Galin Boyd focused on street lighting
and furniture at many of the places they visited.
juxtaposition of clean design with earlier centuries, the moving
beyond replicating, from an aesthetic standpoint is very successful
here,” he said.
sketchbooks will be invaluable tools for their design projects
when they return to Charlottesville. In one project, the architecture
students will be challenged to transform a vacant Barcelona
lot into useful space for a nearby university, which is increasingly
expanding into the neighborhood. The landscape students will
apply the new knowledge gained during this process to a second
project for Charlottesville’s Music Resource Center,
incorporating the adjacent Trailways Bus Station as studios
for musicians in residence with a public garden and space for
small outdoor performances.
have been very pleased with the program and its results, demonstrated
in the excellent student projects that evolve out of this trip
and the subsequent studios,” said Dean Karen Van Lengen.
Barcelona, the students build on a foundation of research started
in Charlottesville. Lectures on Barcelona’s history,
politics and culture; readings and discussions on theory; research
on individual buildings, parks and urban spaces all contribute
to their understanding of the role of design in civic and public
pre-trip work they do is incredibly important to making the
trip meaningful,” Takahashi said. “I am amazed
at how much they glean about the city from the study of maps.”
architecture students Laura Sullivan and Phoebe Richbourg,
being in Barcelona brought the research alive.
was amazing how much the space changed by people occupying
it,” Sullivan said after visiting one of the parks. “It
said, “Being in Barcelona reinforces the link between
theory and practice. America does not have many good examples
of what we are talking about in school. Here, there is a cultural
priority to have good design.”
each stop along the way, the professors and assigned students
present interpretations and lead discussions to help better
understand the designs and their place in the overall context
of the city.
has spent his academic career linking architecture and computers
and is working with the students throughout the semester to
close the gap between computer and studio work. He talked with
the group about some of the research he has conducted using
computer modeling. Mark’s study of materials and light
in the design of architect Mies van der Rohe’s German
Pavilion, designed for the 1929 International Exposition in
Barcelona; and the complex use of geometry by Antonio Gaudo,
whose work spans the late 19th and early 20th centuries, enhanced
the students’ visits to the architectural works.
in the city also provided access to other experts. Lectures
and meetings with Barcelona architects and landscape architects
provided students first-hand insight into historical, planning
and design considerations. A highlight was the visit to the
office of architect Beth Gali, whose work blurs the boundaries
between architecture and landscape architecture, old and new,
urban planning and individual buildings. She shared with the
students information about recent projects her office is designing.
Gerich worked in Gali’s office last summer. He fell in
love with Barcelona as a graduate architecture student when
he went on the school’s first trip to the city in 2001.
He returned this year as the teaching assistant with the group.
His Barcelona experiences have reaffirmed his decision to pursue
a double degree in architecture and landscape.
back clarified the relationship between landscape and architecture:
that they are one thing and that this is something attainable
in the U.S.,” he said.