Friday, April 23, 2010

First Arrival!

My experiences in trying to find my place in a metropolis.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


After conducting my interview with Toni Montes of F451 Arquitectura, I started to take my general ideas and storyboards about what the project was to be about and start to really get into the details of scene progression, shots I wanted to include for specific effect, and what I would be saying in each video. I considered doing everything in Catalan and putting subtitles, but I think I am going to have to table that idea for now, perhaps it will make a director's cut in the future though.
To do this I took a general layout that I had in mind, (consisting of only a few words and phrases that gave a general idea of the video) and from this I constructed a written document of what I wanted the video to say. As I wrote this document, I had in mind several images and clips that I knew would go well with what I was saying, so I added a thumbnail, note, or sketch of that image to the document where I thought it would best fit. After doing this with all three topics, I am now beginning to fill in the gaps and restructure the document as needed.

Each paper was a bit different as in each video I will be trying a slightly different approach, using different techniques to relate my experiences.

In the Culture video which is about the contrast of living in a metropolis such as Barcelona with finding areas of solitude within the city I plan to use a lot of the sounds I've recorded of both types of environment as backdrop sounds for the movie. I thought that I would let the activity and the spaces speak for themselves more to create a sense of the place, only adding my own analysis when necessary. Main highlights of this video include mastering public transportation (contrasted with hitch-hiking in northern Catalunya), checking out Barcelona's parks, how I grew to love an urban lifestyle, and how i changed my itenerary from trying to see everything in Europe to really getting to know a few unique areas.

Much of my ideas for the professional video evolved from what I gleaned from my interview. In the half hour interview I only had to ask four questions, as Toni was a well of information and really worked with me, the interviewer to make what he was saying relevant and useful to the project. This video will therefore be centered around the interview along with my experience working as an architect (although it wasn't technically a real project) in such an architecturally forthcoming and cutting edge area as the "22@" district in Barcelona.

In the third video I will discuss the idea of the Catalan identity and the people's desire for an entirely autonomous state, separate from Madrid. This video contains more commentary of my reactions to certain things I saw and perceptions of the place and the issue that I now have because of my experience living here. I feel as if I have a lot of strong visual evidence for this project, while in the first project I have strong audio evidence, and in the second a lot of personnel experience.

In this way I hope to explore the gamut of techn
iques that we have learned over the course of the semester. I am glad to have been given such a wide range of techniques, as the subjects of which my videos cover require different methods for relaying what I want to say about each one. I will be posting the most recent (I don't want to say "final" as I am big believer in making changes all the way through the final production of a project) editions of the storyboard shortly, but I will leave you with a shot of my view for the afternoon:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Welcome Back to the Interwebs, Michael

So it's been about two weeks since my last post, and boy, am I glad to be getting back to the blogs today. We had our studio final presentation a few days ago, so I have been living the life an architect (no sleep, caffein, long nights, lots of drawing, and... no sleep) which is something that although I strangely enjoy, eventually wears me out. At any rate here's some of the work I've done this semester if anyone out there is interested.

But now that I've made it through the other 16 hours of coursework that I decided to undertake on top of being thrown into a completely new cultural and living environment thousands of miles from home, I'm excited to get to the fun stuff: blogging about my experiences, so look for a lot of stuff coming your way, CLAMers as I try to put 5 months into 3 short videos. To start off however, I'd like to do a little something I call Rhetorical Analysis Part II. Rather than analyzing images I've found, I would instead like to analyze a few of the visuals that I myself, along with the help of my partner, produced for the semester long project we designed.

First up is a final rendering that I produced in Rhino, a 3D modeling program, and then edited in Adobe Photoshop.
I was really glad of the lessons that I learned from the CLAM class and of the fact that I was able to incorporate so much of what I have learned into this document. The first step in making this picture was choosing the view from which to capture the rendering of the building which I designed. The program works just like a virtual camera, giving me options of lens size, zooming capabilities, and where to aim the camera. I was also able to incorporate lighting elements and what to include in the frame. These decisions all factored into what I was able to relay about the design of the building in one image. By making these decisions I was given a great deal of control over the information relayed to the viewers, or to the jury as it was in this case. I then manipulated pictures of my friends to incorporate into the image with Photoshop to bring the space to life and relay to the jury what the intended use of the space was. Here I incorporated what I learned about composition of digital photography, making visual lines of sight from the foreground and background through composition. Using the rule of thirds, emphasis is placed on areas that I want the judges attention to be focused upon. By using differently scaled people in different places I was able to generate a better sense of the size and character of the space. This image gives the jury a much better idea of the realization of the building than a schematic diagrams might.

In addition to the renderings of the building, I was able to incorporate what I have learned of rhetoric into the layout and design of the final boards (1 of 3 shown above). From what I learned of RGB and CMYK color theory I was able to choose a visually complimentary color scheme for the project that helped give a sense of cohesion between each drawing and graphic. As this was a competition, grabbing the judges attention visually was a huge component of the competition. The mix of diagrams, renderings, sections and plans, might be confusing were it not for the cohesiveness given by the graphic styles incorporated in the board. The layout was also greatly considered, set up in a way that moves the eye down and across the board from rendering, to diagram, to scheme in a fluid manner.

Lastly, we created a graphic logo for our project. Though it is quite simple, it is effective at relaying the overall concept of the project and is much more complex graphically than it may first appear. The graphic is seen below:
The driving concept of the project was the idea of creating an architecture based on one's visual perception. We therefore named the project FOCUS, an acronym which stood for Focusing Optics to Create Urban Spaces. The project uses a series of vertical panels that vary in size and gap between panels. We therefore used the same idea in the design of the logo. The offsetting of the letters with the vertical lines creates a shift in focus that creates that same sensibility that drove the project design. The letters and the vertical lines seem to separate, each tugging at the attention of the viewer. The letters do this with their bold solid forms while the delicate lines create a void space to achieve the same.

I'd love some comments from other CLAMers or any of my other followers about my rhetorical analysis of my own work, and whether or not I achieved the certain level of visual relationships that I was shooting for. Also any comments about the work itself are of course welcome.

This will be a busy week blogging for me so look for another update in a few hours on my progress for the final projects, but first I've got to go get some of that great Catalan cuisine!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Interviewing Strtegies

I am really glad that I had a chance to watch this week's segments before trying to conduct my interview. When it comes to a lot of things, I am more prone to try to 'wing it' rather than to develop a detailed plan. I will of course have a basic outline planned in my head, however rarely do I work with a written outline. That's just always been the way I have worked. But after watching the filmlab videos, I now realize the importance of having my questions written out and a clear direction for the interview. I had a vision of how the interview might have gone had I gone in like I had planned with just a general idea of what I wanted to know and it was a scary one, filled with me awkwardly scrambling for something relevant to ask, and the interviewee becoming increasingly annoyed. Anyways I now have a plan and am glad for it.

For the professional video I will be interviewing Toni Montes of F451 Arquitectura. In my experience in architecture school, he is the individual from whom I feel I have learned the
most. For the interview I plan to conduct it in our studio. In the storyboard sketch I have done, I have models, sketches, and projects that we have produced here this semester in the background of the shot. I am still working on the types of questions that I am going to ask him, and the direction that I want the interview to take. A second interview that I will be using in my films will be with Clemson alum and former Barcelona architecture student Sarah Moore, who is now living here in Catalunya. I will be asking her about her experience with the people of the region and their sense of independence and how they feel about the region's relationship with the Spanish government. Many of the people here do not feel that the Spanish Parliament nor monarchy have any right to governance of the region and wish to become completely independent. As Sarah is living here and learning the language, I am interested to learn what she has experienced her, as well as to catch up with an old friend. For the setting of this interview I am planning something informal and typical for the region, most likely a small cafe on one of the back streets that I've found. I'm hoping to hammer out these questions this week and get to interviewing by the weekend!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Switzerland Video

Just took a trip to do some hiking in the Alps. Didn't plan as having as much snow, but was great anyway! Hopefully you can get a good understanding of how the trip went based on only the video, but i'll update a bit later with some reflections. Also, kind of played around with a few of the effects, although i've never been a huge fan of mixing more than two or three in the same video.... But I got familiar with extracting audio from videos and then using that audio overlayed with other clips. Hope you guys enjoy!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Project Ideas

I am pretty excited to start working on my projects. I've been doing a basic "story-baord" so to speak in my head as I've been experiencing Barcelona. Here are a few basic ideas for how I am starting to approach each of the videos.

Personal: I really want to portray my experience of living in an urban environment, especially one so vibrant as Barcelona. I'd like to show back and forth between the fast pace movement of the city contrasted to a few "respites" from city life that I have found. I feel like I can make a lot of use of using audio clips along with the video and pictures to portray this. By switching back and forth from these busy experiences, for example right outside my window, to the more peaceful ones of say Montjuic Park, I can also portray the cadence of the life that I have led here in the city.

Professional: I am really looking forward to doing this video. Our architecture studio is located directly adjacent to the offices and studio of EMBT, a world renowned firm founded by the late Enriq Miralles. We were able to tour their studio earlier in the year, and I believe that I will be able to interview one of their personnel to discuss architecture and it's role in Barcelona, as well as who Catalunyan architecture and the works of EMBT have made an impression on the architecture community as a whole. I also would like to get an opinion on this subject from my studio professor who himself is a renowned architect in the region.

Public Issues: For this video I would like to look at the Catalunyan sense of independence from Spain. Although they are recognized as an "autonomous" state, they still feel as if the Spanish Monarchy and parliament are alien to them and do not have the right to claim the region as part of their rule. I would like to interview a friend of mine and Clsemson University alum, Sarah Moore who is currently working as an au pair for a Catalunyan family. This family speaks little Spanish and so Sarah has had to learn much of the language. I would like to compare her experience with this idea of independence, from what I have learned since being over here.

I'm looking forward to putting these videos together to share my experiences here.

Sunday, February 28, 2010


The comments from this week's lesson about the trope of a photograph opening up a new angle or view by which an outsider might now see the city or culture in which I am now living have gotten me thinking a lot about how I can show people back home what my experience is here. I've wanted to show them the landmarks and postcard images, sure, but I have really had trouble capturing the day to day experiences that I'm finding so wonderful here. I think by considering the tropos of the photograph I'm taking I'll now be able to do this better. I do think that I have been doing this somewhat subconsciously all along, however, now that I'm aware of what I was doing the effect can be all that much greater. But let's analyze my handling of the tropos in the pictures I took for last week's post:

The tightness of the picture of Kyle and the lighting give a good sense that the restaurant in which we were in was a smaller space. The building seen through the window is also relatively close as well. These elements along with the low lighting show that the restaurant, and neighborhood might be places that are cramped or dense.

The picture of Evan sitting on the ground in Madrid was not as successful in capturing the moment as I had hoped. There was a whirlwind of leaves and trash that swept over him while he was seated waiting for a bus in Madrid. That situation had a lot of movement in the leaves and bags, but it's not captured in this photo. I do think that the fact both subjects' attentions are directed in the same direction does help the viewer to begin to understand what is happening in the picture. The fact that the pavers take up the entire frame help to give the viewer a sense of the feel and texture of Madrid.

The upwards angle shots of these buildings in Madrid give them a monumental feeling, a feeling that they are quite imposing. Another contributor to this feeling is the fact that there are no people shown in the frame, putting all the importance on the weight and brevity of the structures. The top building is taken on a sunny day while the bottom is taken on a cloudy one. This works well with the material of each building to portray the feeling of the building: blue sky for glass; grey clouds for concrete.

The absence of people and the upwards angle of the building in Munich give a similar monumental feeling as the buildings in Madrid. When this building is then shown in the daylight with crowds of people all around there is a much more lively feeling to the building. The first seems as if it is some foreboding castle, while in the second it appears to be a central gathering place.

The two snow pictures taken in the Olympic park in Munich both give a sense of coldness with their lack of color and lack of people. It's hard to tell which picture makes the place seem more lonely, the one with no people or the one with only one person. I think the one person within a large area is more effective at portraying the emptiness of the place than the isolated footprints at a close range because the first shows how vast the place is.

The blurred lights and festive colors help give a sense of the excitement of Carnival. But when you look closely at the picture, the reflection of the lights off the wet road tell the viewer it's raining. Also the expression on the subject who remains in focus also tells this tale. The combination of all these elements effectively portrayed a scene in which a celebration is mixed with misfortune, but goes on happening anyways. From this event I got a better understanding of the expression "to rain on the parade."

The two images of the lake in Retiro Park in Madrid show a different feeling for the lake. The top gives a sense of the entire scene, the impression one might have from the bank of the lake, surveying the scene. The second however gives the viewer a better sense of the experience of the people on the water, and takes away the monument of the fountain. The green lake doesn't seem as picturesque in the second image, but the viewer gets a great sense of the texture of the wooden paddle and of the water.

The last two images portray the inner courtyard of a monastery in two different ways. The first with a single subject taken from far away shows the somberness of the courtyard. The second, because of the way the floor takes up half the frame, makes the space feel much more intimate, as do the addition of a number of people, even if it is just their feet. The difference in showing the entire person vs simply the lower halves of the people also creates a different sense for the place.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Digital Photography

A sampling of photographs that I took to implement the techniques that I learned from this weeks lesson on digital photography techniques. The pictures were taken in Span and Germany.
Kyle at Doner Kebob. Keeping the photo tight and using the rule of thirds.

Whirlwind of trash engulfing Evan. A downward shot of Evan sitting in the trash. Fitting given the context of the shot.

As an architecture major, I'd say the upwards shot is perhaps the most commonly used to the scale and nature of the subject matter.

Marianplatz, Munich, Germany. Looking at the tower and statue at night using rule of thirds and again during the day with different light settings and employing an arch to naturally frame the photograph.

Snow in Olympic Park, Munich at two different scales and using different orientations.

Carnival Parade in Barcelona. I thought this one turned out particularly well given the lighting conditions, rain, and quick movement of the people. Although i don't own a tripod, this is a great example of what can happen to your photograph when the picture is taken by an unsteady hand. The focus on the one drummer mixed with the blurriness of the other paraders, however, portrays well the environment and liveliness of the parade.

The lake at Retiro Park at different scales and orientations.

A monastery floor taken using different scale, orientation, and location of subjects in the shot.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

McDonald's, Rhetorically Speakin(g)

I have suddenly become aware that the interpretation of the rhetoric used in McDonald's commercials has been something I've been doing since I was a small child, though perhaps only on a subconscious level until now. I can still hear children singing the "Do you believe in magic" Happy Meal commercials from the 90's, as I can also recall soundbites of the "We love to see you smile," "Did somebody say McDonald's," and "I'm lovin' it" campaigns. It was therefore interesting to see that the current "I'm lovin' it" slogan made its way to the Spanish website, appearing about the same number of times and in the same places as on the US site, and in English nonetheless. Having been to the McDonald's in Madrid last week and to the McDonald's here in Barcelona earlier today, I can say that the menu items are basically the same with only a few small differences. I haven't run into a New York Crispy or a CBO (Chicken Bacon Onion) Sandwich in a South Carolina McDonald's before, however these could be new items in the states added to the menu in the last month.
It was not the food items so much that were noticeably different, but the subtly different ways in which they were presented to me, the consumer. The first advertisement on the Spanish site that you see depicts cows which have eaten the field of grass in which they stand to resemble the shape of the country itself. In a subsequent video advertisement the cheerful music and pleasant voice announce that McDonald's hamburger meat sold in Spain is from Spanish livestock. Although the US site does have a link devoted to pushing their menu as "healthy," the larger concern in Spain is not about the calorie count, but rather about the freshness of the food prepared, and where it comes from. Given that the recent Mad Cow scare in Britain is not to far from both the minds of Europeans and the shores of Spanish cities, it is logical that addressing this concern and reassuring the consumer of the freshness and localness of the beef would be of utmost concern to restaurants in Spain. The music and pleasantness of the ad give a secure feeling, and the site of one's own country may even evoke a sense of Spanish pride. The cattle appear to be quite content living in such a picturesque landscape, and this puts the viewer at ease as well. The reassuring voice in the commercial lets the viewer know that McDonald's is primarily concerned with their best interest and has taken the steps necessary to bring them the product that they desire in the manner that they desire.
One comparison of the two sites that I kept noticing was the "informal" language or presentation that the company was trying to push. The main example I experienced on the US site was the complete abandonment of the letter "g" in titles or words used in slogans that ended in "-ing." By spelling the words this way they are trying to create an atmosphere in which the consumer feels as if he or she is at the restaurant to have fun and relax from the formalities of everyday life at the office or school. In fact they even have a title at the top of the page called, "Havin' Fun." I did find it interesting that in lengthier descriptions or in phrases that comprised complete sentences the "g's" were no longer excluded. I assume this was because if it were to be taken to this level of exclusion the site may come off as sounding too relaxed and could be perceived by some as unintelligent, ignorant, or stereotypical of certain regions in the United States. The Spanish website achieved this idea of informality by including exclamation points with many of their titles and by writing many menu items in a "hand-written" script. In the McDonald's itself there are advertisements on the wall which display hand-drawn sketches of fresh-ingredients along with descriptions in a font that resembles a cursive hand writing. These not only continue to play on the appeal of fresh ingredients but also divert the consumers attention away from the fact that McDonald's is a world-wide chain of restaurants and therefore can be seen as lacking intimacy or originality with the consumer. This is also why both sites push the "identity" or personalization of the restaurant angle.
Overall, I didn't find the Spanish site to be all that different than the American site. Had I looked at the site in English, and had the cows eaten the grass into the shape of the United States rather than Spain, I honestly don't think I could have told the difference between the two. But when I looked closer at the rhetoric of the two sites, I could see that there were many subtle differences that, because of culture, existed between the two. Either way a dollar menu cheeseburger with McDonald's fries is still one of my favorite low budget meals.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Google, I know You'll Read This Too

I was first alerted to the "Is Google Taking Over the World" theory some months ago when I came across a video about "Google's Opt-Out Program" on a fake news site that I visit about once a week. While this video is clearly a parody, it did get me to begin thinking about the privacy issues involved in using such a service. But until I read Nicholas Carr's "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" article, it had never really occurred to me that not only could the privacy of my personal information be at stake, but also the privacy of the inner sanctum of my own mind.
Carr does present an interesting observation that he now seems much more distracted because of the way he uses the internet, and particularly because of the constant barrage of images he is inundated with when he surfs the web. To relate my own experiences to Carr I need only to look back to the previous sentence; as I was typing the word "inundate" I had to look up the spelling of the word, so mid-sentence I used the hot corners feature on my computer to display all of the opened windows so that I could travel to Including this site I had open 9 websites, all consisting of entirely different content, each containing thousands upon thousands of possible links, images, and blurbs. The effect of Carr's argument quickly clicked (no pun intended) in my mind. I realize now that the way I absorb information is one of quickly moving through a series of "highlights." Given the way the internet is set up, I do not find this all too surprising.
What did really surprise me, however, is when I noticed how this way of absorbing information has now revealed itself in situations where I am not in front of a screen. This past weekend we visited the Prada Museum and the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid which contained the Royal Collection, one of the finest art collections in the world. I didn't notice it at the time but I am now noticing the way I went through the museum is very similar to the way I might scroll through a group of pictures on line. As I walked through the long halls I would skim the paintings, not really even seeing them until one caught my eye. I would view this work in greater detail and then continue skimming until my eye was again caught. The museum it seems even knew that this was the way people were viewing the museum and created a "Masterpiece Checklist" so that one might skip over the other stuff and see only the most famous pieces. There were only two or three works where I really stopped and took a good amount of time viewing a painting (surprisingly neither of the two were on the "checklist"). I now am wondering whether someone who is web illiterate would go about the museum in a similar fashion. I am also interested in thinking about whether my way of thinking has been altered from a previous state as Carr suggests, or rather, because I was born in this visual age, perhaps I have always absorbed information in this manner. Either way the discussion is an important one in that if what Carr is asserting is true, perhaps there is a way in which we can alter the system to use this way of learning to our advantage, propelling the human race to an even greater understanding of what it means to communicate with one another.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bienvenidos a Signal Mountain, TN

When first given the assignment, before watching the video material, as I started to construct within my head what I might include, I thought of all the touristy things that are advertised all around Chattanooga. A vision of "See Rock City" painted on the side of a barn might be popping into your head about this time. However, after viewing the materials and thinking about Chattanooga from the outside in, and comparing it with my experiences here in Spain, I came up with a very different picture.
The town of Signal Mountain (pop around 10,000) sits atop Walden's Ridge overlooking the Tennessee Valley and the city
of Chattanooga. To me and others around the area the idea of living on a mountain as strange never crosses our minds. But to someone living in say South Florida, it might sound pretty bizarre. But there are several places all over the world in where mountain communities exist. For example this past weekend I took a two hour bus ride from Barcelona up into the Pyrannese Mountains to a tiny town called Olot, which sits atop an inactive volcano. Naturally getting away from the coast and back up into the mountains again made me feel right at home. I came to discover however, through staying in the town and thinking retrospectively on the experience in regards to the course material how different the everyday life of the towns was. While I was there I met a few of the locals who were around my age, and it turns out we have a lot in common. But here are a few things they might find strange about my mountain town:

On average I would drive up and d
own the mountain at least twice a day. Though there are a few restaurants, a grocery store, some shops, a gas station or two, for the most part, if I want something, I have to go down the mountain to get it. Most stores and restaurants, entertainment, my high school, etc. are located in the valley. I guess Signal Mountain might be considered an "isolated suburb" as there's not much of a transition between the burbs and the city as there might be in other areas. The citizens of Olot however, have essentially everything they need. Electronics stores, clothing stores, dozens of bakeries, bars, banks, sandwich shops (more on this in a bit), and everything else one might need. If they were to come to Signal Mountain they might find it silly and impractical or inconvenient to have
to descend the mountain so often.
Along the same lines, one of them might find it strange how nothing from my town is actually from my town or even region. Or state. Often times country. Most of the food at the market in Olot comes from the region Garrotxa, or the state of Catalunya. The fruit, the vegetables, the meat, cheese, wine, bread - all comes from a local source. At the Grocery store up on the mountain, goods are shipped from all over the continent. There's no way that on my hamburger the bread, meat, tomatoes
, lettuce, cheese, and onions all came from within 50 to 100 miles of my house. For them it might seem quite strange that we import so many of our foods.
That's not to say that we don't have our own regional cultural identities. Apologies to South Carolinian barbeque, (can't comment on Korean bbq as I haven't had the pleasure) but you can't beat a good Tennessee pulled pork sandwich. Throw in a rack of Memphis dry-rub ribs and some baked beans and a glass of sweet tea and you'll never want a different meal again. But I think they would find it strange how many chain restaurants there are. They might see the food experience here as hygienic, with a sense of the word the evokes sterility or staleness, more of A Brave New World type of hygienic. They're more used to a more personal restaurant experience, one I was gratefully able to share with them this weekend.
We went out to find some dinn
er on Saturday night around 9:30 (they'd find our 6-8 dinner time absurdly early) and found a little place with comfortable room for about 10-12 people. Packed inside were over 20 people crammed in a 2 foot wide ring around the "kitchen" area of the establishment. This consisted of two flat top grills and a deep fryer
that had an area around that of a square yard. Laid out under a class cover on the bar were all sorts of meats - bacon, pork chops, ham, chorizo, foot-long hot dogs, hamburger meat - you know, all the "American" classics. The cooks methodically toasted butterflied baguettes on one grill, boiled dozens of hot dogs and pounds of onions in the vat of oil/grease, and cooked the bacon, ham, pork chops, etc on the other flat top, covering everything with grease while melting cheese onto the meets at the same time. There was no combination that wasn't available. One simply told the cooks what meats to cook, whether they wanted onions and cheese, and they cooked it and served it between the t
wo bread slices (which happen to be the perfect grease-sponges). After an experience like that I might be a little disappointed in the way the hotdog joint at the foot of the mountain works now. Where's the grease!? So although we might have some similarities in our mountain towns, the manner in which we go about everyday things can be totally different.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Uniquely Catalan

It's a paradoxical city, Barcelona, to be known as such a cosmopolitan city while still presenting itself as such a uniquely independent culture. As I watched this week's video installments, I immediately would see a connection between the ideas (nomos, etmos, archon, etc.) and the culture in which I'm living. It's a new thought that I'm entertaining, that architecture, the layout of a city, and the consequences of these, could teach me so much about the savior-faire of a culture. So being a student of architecture, I suppose the most logical starting point for this discussion would be archon. In my short tenure here (it's been 2 weeks today), I've visited quite a few sites and it's given me not only an understanding of the architectural feeling of the city, but the cultural feeling of the city. The purest example would be The Sagrada Familia.

The Sagarda Familia has come to be a representational landmark of the city. If you were to
receive a post card from Barcelona (and some of you will!) chances are likely it's going to have either the Sagrada Familia or another Gaudi work. Work on the structure was begun in 1909
and completed in... tbd (expected 2029). Throughout the 100 years that it has been under construction, the building has evolved from a house of worship to the symbol of an entire culture. To state it simply, there is nothing like it elsewhere on earth; it is purely Catalan. The Catalan native Gaudi drew his inspiration primarily from studying plant forms, all of which were native to the region. The building employs local sandstone and rock from around northern Spain and southern France. When the final tower is completed, the structure will thrust 170 meters into the sky, a monument to Catalan ingenuity, and a representation of the pride and independent spirit of the Catalan people. The facade of the building also shows the rich artistic heritage of the place, supporting a cast of statues that range from a classical style, to a series of modernly artistic sculptures constructed throughout the 1990's. The building, like the city, has managed to adapt to the changing of the times, through scarring and formative times like the Civil War (the interior of the building was razed), and through cultural shifts such as the modern art movement, while still maintaing its unique sense that it is proudly unique.
Most of the architecture built before the 21st century had this quality of being Catalan, something the city prides itself on. Now however, the city has begun moving in a different direction, causing much controversy. Barcelona has now become known as, "the city where all the star architects come to build their worst building." The city has also chosen to tear down certain established neighborhoods in order to make room for denser housing. While development is not a bad thing, the way the city is going about it is where the controversy lies. In one particular neighborhood, a low rent community, the established tenants are being evicted and their houses torn down for highways. The people are given an opportunity to move to the new flats, however the structure and community, or the subculture that exists there, is slowly being destroyed and replaced with something that completely disregards that this culture ever existed. Perhaps the worst part is when the tenants are moved into the new building, they now have a perfect view to watch their old houses demolished from the tiny balcony which has now replaced the open squares and public space that they once enjoyed. Although the city is making mistakes in areas like these, in other sectors it is making great strides in opening up public space, which is where all of the culture of the city is enacted.
Before coming here, like any other traveler, I researched the culture and geography of the region where I read that the primary national language was not in fact Spanish, but rather Catalan. I assumed that was just for historical significance and that it was an afterthought to Spanish. Upon arriving here I was shocked to see that all the signs, directions, etc, were written not in Spanish, but in Catalan. Barcelona and the Catalan people really pride themselves in their language. Everyone here does speak Spanish, (and usually English), but Catalan takes first chair. From this I learned a lot about the spirit of the people. They are open to the world, and are quite friendly, but it is clear that maintaining their own identity is of top priority. Movies are dubbed from English to Catalan, a language with less than 10 million speakers; this isn't even done for Dutch or Danish. Here, being Catalan is a "whole way of life." Barcelonan food, the architecture, the city- all of these elements have outside influences, but at their core they are Catalan. The people here are quite able in finding a way to take something from outside the culture and integrate it into their own in a way that not only preserves the Catalan core, but transforms the new influence into something new, and therefor Catalonian. Through looking at this etnos, I have quickly had to readjust the manner in which I think about Barcelona, the people here, and how I understand their customs. Knowing of this independent pride enables me to interact socially with the people here better. Rather than approaching the trip as if I were a tourist visiting simply another part of Spain, I know try to think of myself as someone who is living in Catalan, thinking about what I can learn from the Catalan culture and how I can place myself into that culture and work within it, rather than to observe it, and make it my own.

Friday, January 15, 2010

a sense of online community

I know I had a blog running already, however I have decided to post to two sites; this blog will be for completing class assignments for the CLAM course, while the other site will be a place where I can share my personal experiences abroad with friends, family, and my fellow CLAMers, found here.  This move will enable me to separate the fields of work and play, while still maintaing a strong link between the two sites as I foresee that much of the material will overlap.  Links between blogs of a different nature such as this are my way of attempting to structure the online community in which I am involved. As I am one of the millions who suffer from the affliction known simply as "facebook addiction," I look forward to coordinating by blog with my facebook community.  This community represents for me a way to expand the social network that I have established in the public world into my private life, not in a sense that it may feel like an invasion of privacy, but rather I can continue to contribute and build this community from my home or from a distance, even as far a distance as say Barcelona, Spain for instance.  As far as other forms of online communication and media that I have explored are twitter and myspace, although I never got too into either of those, and have since abandoned them.  Apart from facebook, the other large part of my role in the online community consists of my membership to several sites concerning music.  I am a member of a number of fan sites for certain bands, and the message boards on the sites are like mini communities for people with a very particular interest.  I also have recently discovered a site called bandcamp; here artists and bands are given a site, free of charge, to upload their music for other users to download, while simultaneously providing the artists with information about who is listening, what they're listening to, and how often each song or album is played or downloaded.  Within this site I have found many new bands, as well as many new friends willing to help and collaborate to create a positive movement in the music industry. All this being said, I am really looking forward to getting into the material of this course and learning about some fantastic ways of better communicating with the communities with which I am familiar, as well as some newly discovered sites.