Sunday, March 30, 2008

Barcelona GBE - Part two

In the interest of brevity I am structuring part2 differently. There are numerous sources to find more details on each of these historic sites. I will focus on the places we visited and my Impressions. If you like Barcelona, definitely read

Wednesday March 12th 2008: Olympic village, Palau Nacional, cathedral, Picasso museum

We covered the following culture sites today
Olympic Village: Home of the 1992 Olympic games. If you remember the Archer lighting the Olympic torch and the diving platforms where you could see entire Barcelona, it should bring back the memories of the games.
Palau Nacional: Which is the national art museum of Cataluña was a palace originally built for 1929 world’s fair. The building’s architecture looks impressive but Catalans don’t consider it so. It was actually a replica of many famous buildings of the time and hence lacks in originality. Santa Maria del Mar: A church built around the 13th and 14th century looks very Dark and gloomy from exterior but interiors stand in sharp contrast. It is a good example of gothic architecture. Palau de la Música Cataluña – is a concert hall built in modernistic style in early 20th century very similar to the works of Gaudi. It has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site. Some of us would come back later in the week to get tours and even see concerts. Picasso Museum: If you haven’t seen or don’t know much about Picasso this is a good place to visit to learn more about him. It is housed in adjoining medieval houses and has extensive collection of his art but not necessarily his most popular works.
Check out some of his art work
It was almost 9:30 Pm when we got back from the Picasso museum and most of crashed in our hotel beds. I spent some time keeping my Journal up to date. As part of the course we were required to maintain a journal and I took particular interest in not just noting and observing my interests but also attempting to draw and depict art and architecture

Thursday march 13th 2008: Figueres and Pubol

Today we headed to figures and Pubol for a day trip. Figueres was the home town of Dali, the famous artist who pioneered the technique of surrealism. I didn’t know much about Dali before my visit and was totally astonished by his creativity and imagination. Most of his paintings had so much depth, symbolisms and hidden meanings that one could analyze them for hours. He also experimented with other forms of art and in fact the Museum in figures was designed and decorated by him. He put in various forms of art and creations, 3-Dimensional art that were especially intriguing. Though this place is Hour and half from Barcelona it’s a must visit for any modern art fan.
Learn more about Dali
Check out some of his paintings

Pubol is about half an hour away from Figueres and houses the castle that Gala, Dali’s wife, lived in. Dali and gala had a very interesting relationship and lived apart most of the time. Gala’s residence at Pubol is a great sight in its own right and is well decorated with Dali’s artwork. I also managed to sneak around the village which gave me a good glimpse of rural ‘Catalan’ scene in modern times. I found it an interesting mix of cultures.
We got back from Pubol by 7 pm and rested for some time. Since we did not have an early class tomorrow it was great opportunity for us to check out Barcelona’s night life. Barcelona, and I assume the most of Europe, has an interesting lifestyle where people go out very late first for Dinner from 9pm to 12pm and then drinks at bar till about 2am. Then they hit the clubs and stay out till about 7am and if you are still not done there are still some after hours to go to.
We started out with dinner at a Tapas place which was excellent and then heading to a friend’s friend apartment for some drinks. Our first stop was a local Bar which seems like a college hangout and drew a pretty young crowd. Unlike in US the drinking age in Europe is 18 years and no one ever seems to check Ids. I forget the place’s name but it translates to “Black Sheep” We later headed out to club “Opium” I was back home by 5 am. Obviously everyone said that I left early.

Friday march 14th 2008: Casa Mila/La Pedrara

We had the day off to visit any site we choose and I like most others decided to visit Casa Mila, also known as La Pedrara. Another Gaudi’s masterpiece, this is apartment complex that was actually completed and is still in habited. This truly shows the genius of Gaudi’s engineering skills as well as aesthetic qualities. The displays and exhibits inside, as well as the entire building provides a great insight into gaudi’s philosophy and vision. This is a must visit and preferably this should be the First Gaudi you see in Barcelona.
Later I visited a friend who lived in Av. Tibidabo. Barcelona is an easy place to get around using the metro and you can get anywhere cheaply without knowing a bit of Spanish. The visit provided me a glimpse of other parts of the city and city life that I had missed so far.
Later that evening I went down to see the musical fountains at the Palace. I haven’t seen many musical fountains before and found this one very interesting and entertaining. In talking with friends later they said it was too touristy and reminded them of Disneyland. I still think the Muscial fountains are quite a sight and you should put this in your calendar if you can.

March 15th and 16th

After a short class on Saturday where we wrapped up our course and tried to relate design to strategy, we had the rest of weekend free. I caught up with my friend who showed me around some shopping , La Rambalas, some bars and good dinner places. I was getting more of the Barcelona city experience. On Sunday we went to place called “Parc de Laberint’ which was beautiful Duke’s castle with a garden and labyrinth. This is a very romantic place and I definitely recommend it for couples. We also stopped by Parc de la Cuitedala, caught a glimpse of the ‘Arc de triumph’ and did some boating. If anyone is interested the zoo is at this park.

Overall this had been a very exciting and enriching trip to Barcelona and my post and pictures do not do justice to this experience. Though, I hope I encouraged you enough to go and visit this amazing city.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Barcelona GBE - Part One

GBE - Global Business Experience - One week spring break course at Darden

Sunday March 9th 2008: Arrive at Barcelona

We had caught a connecting flight from Atlanta on route to Barcelona and arrived late morning on Sunday. For me the trip was as much about exploring Barcelona, Spanish and Catalan culture as the course on ‘Strategy as design’ which seemed equally interesting. In fact lot of what we were planning to do as part of the course i.e. see Barcelona’s architecture, culture, observe and understand paintings of Picasso and Dali was very much what I wanted to do. After getting to our hotel, we caught up on sleep and got lunch at a nearby place. Later one of the groups headed down to the ‘La Rambalas’ area to explore, while I joined the group that was more keen to explore things nearby. At first glimpse Barcelona appeared a dynamic, vibrant city with amazing history and culture and I was very enthused to explore more in the coming days.

Monday March 10th 2008: Pavellon Guell, Colonial Guell, Park Guell, La Rambalas

After a hearty breakfast at the hotel, we headed down to IESE School. Both our hotel and the school were in the Pedrables (meaning white stone) area which is predominantly a residential area. It was interesting to note even the residential houses had distinct identity and architecture. We spent some time at the class discussing Gaudi, design, and our expectations for the course. We had lunch at IESE cafeteria which I must remark is exceptionally in its offering of gourmet food.
After lunch it was time to head to Colonial Guell. We did however make a quick stop at Pavellon Guell, one of the early creations of Gaudi and noted some distinct elements such as use or arches, complexity of design and use of ceramic tiles in decoration. Colonial Guell was about an hour away from Barcelona. It was created in mid 19th century to escape Barcelona’s appalling labor conditions and environment. Residential buildings in the colony were built by Gaudi’s assistants in his style. The only Gaudi building was the incomplete church. The base of the church was pretty typical Gaudi with undulations, textured exterior, no straight lines and ceramic decorations. Lots of my friends remarked that it seemed too dark for a church but it still looked very intriguing. The interior of the church was darker still, but we were surprised by attention to detail of both aesthetics and functionality. Even the chairs, skylights, seating and lighting were all well thought about for both aspects.

Park Guell was build on the idea of creating large extravagant park with residential quarters but the idea never came to fruition in the way Gaudi imagined. Once we got there it was evident why that was the case. The front of entrance had two small houses which looked like picked out of a fairly tale, fully decorated with ceramic and painted in vibrant colors. There were steps leading up to the market place which was a structure supported numerous pillars. On the steps were some exotic engravings and the roof of the markets had similar ceramic patterns. The park though beautiful in appearance may have appeared to extreme at the time, especially for people to like in it and hence did not succeed.
Later that day we explored ‘La Rambalas’ on our own. The area is a pedestrian area surrounded by shops and vendors on either side. Street performers are an interesting attraction here. This is definitely a ‘touristy’ place but very enjoyable and a must visit area. Also there are numerous other small streets that emanate from here that are very interesting to explore. There are many cafes, restaurants and bars around for quick bite, ‘tapas’ or drink but it’s better to go into one of the inner streets to get more of the local feel and flavor.

Tuesday March 11th 2008: Sagrada Familia, Casa battlo, Barri gottic area

After discussing our insights and observations from the previous day we were keen to see gaudi’s master piece ‘Sagraga Familia’

My first reaction after stopping right in front of Sagraga familia was that of awe. The structure was immense the engravings so complex. I was just amazed at the complexity while other raised questions on its aesthetic appeal. It does invoke different reactions from different people but commonality is that those reactions are extreme. Interesting aspect of Sagrada familia is its still in construction and it was designed way beyond what was possible in his time. It speaks to Gaudi’s visionary approach while the design is further validation of his engineering prowess. The church is controversial in many ways as the original designs were destroyed and other architects chose to deliberately deviate while constructing other facads (walls). The interior was also very well thought of with pillars shaped as trees and branches, ceiling depicting leaves and skylight give an impression of a waterfall. Inspiration Gaudi draws from nature is very evident. I could talk about Sagrada Familia endlessly but I will suggest that you pull out certain articles or wikipedia as they would more accurately represent all facts about its history.
Casa Battlo, one of the Gaudi’s masterpiece is a house he redesigned for the Battlo family. It is considered very modernistic design and is one project he actually did complete. The front wall of the house is striking and distinct with balconies resembling eyes of a serpent and there is an oceanic feel to the decoration. In fact the whole house and its interiors are built on this theme. The interiors were very aesthetically appealing and looked very spacious. What was remarkable was focus on both aesthetic and design at the same time. For example in designing the ventilation between rooms Gaudi even decorated the ports to fit to the theme. The arches both supported the structure while also creating more space. The terrace chimneys were decorated to look more like from a fantasy story and the front roof was made to appear as if it were the back of the dragon. It is a recurring theme in Barcelona to pay respect to Patron St. George’s slaying of the dragon.

Later that evening we went down to the port to see the sunset and later walked around the ‘Barri gottic’ area. Exploring the narrow streets and shops in this area are an experience in its own. Every few blocks you would encounter a plaza and maybe couple of cafes, bars and restaurants. I also walked by the Government legislative building, Barcelona cathedral, remains of the Roman wall. Walking around this area and exploring new things is an adventure in itself.
To be continued....

Friday, March 07, 2008

Darden Exam Prep Dilemma

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