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5 posts from June 2012


Olympic City

As part of the CIEE Barcelona Summer course on Architecture, Art and Design in Contemporary Barcelona, students will be posting a series of site visit reviews on the blog.

Name: Peter
CIEE Barcelona Program: Language & Culture
Semester: Summer 2012
Home School:  Providence College


The Olympic Stadium

On Monday we traveled up Montjuic, the mountain in Barcelona that held the 1992 Olympics. This was an exhilarating experience because it was a real turning point in Catalan history. The Olympics brought pride to Catalan people and also brought unity. It was their time to show their true image and present their impact on history. This event was very costly however. With the help of many European countries, Barcelona was able to host this wonderful event. Every estimate made of the productions of buildings was incorrect by several million. “The cost of the games preparations of 2.73 billion dollars was exceeded by around 300 percent, costing something like 7 billion at comparable rates of exchange. This cost increase was due to an expanded scope of work and budget overruns on specific projects.” (Olympic Opportunity).

Peter2Cobi, The Mascot

Although the cost was very high, it was very beneficial to the city as a whole . The games were held on the mountain of Montjuic, but the games really affected everywhere; Pouble nou constructed many apartment complexes for all the athletes of the tournament, which were about 10,000. Sants (and north of Sants) created complexes for the Journalists to live, which exceeded the number of athletes even. Barcelona’s government attempted to fill all the underused land around the city of Barcelona by creating apartments for this event. The entire city was greatly affected by this worldwide event held in Barcelona.

Peter3Multipurpose Hall

I believe this was an extremely beneficial trip because we got to see what truly gave Catalans pride in 1992. It was a beautiful sight and it’s amazing to believe that these complexes were built for this one event. This was very important for the city because although it had help with funding and creating these series of buildings, it was Barcelona who held the Olympics. They did rethink the event due to the under allocation of funds, but still managed to stage the 1992 World Olympics.

The opening montage of the 92 Olympics, with vocals by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé:


Els Quatre Gats

As part of the CIEE Barcelona Summer course on Architecture, Art and Design in Contemporary Barcelona, students will be posting a series of site visit reviews on the blog.

Name: Tom
CIEE Barcelona Program: Language & Culture
Semester: Summer 2012
Home School:  George Washington University

Tom2On Thursday our class had the opportunity to have a cup of coffee in the world-renowned Els Quatre Gats café. Because of its location in the heart of the condensed Barri Gotic, the café manages to stay cool even on a hot Barcelona summer day. Inside, one can find a charming hidden retreat that offers a deliciously rich cortado, and an even richer history. Els Quatre Gats is nestled into the bottom floor of the Casa Marti, a building constructed in the modernista style and designed by architect Josep Puig I Cadafalch.


The café was originally only open from 1897 to 1903, but during these seven years it was home to several important events in the Catalonian artistic underground. Many of the leading figures of the avant-garde underground convened in the bar, where they swapped ideas about the latest innovations in technique and theory.

In addition to serving as a meeting ground, however, the café was also an unofficial gallery, a place where these young bohemians would be able to show off their latest works in exhibitions. The most famous of these young bohemians to first make a name for himself here was Pablo Ruiz Picasso, whose first exhibition made an appearance in February 1900. The café was run by four leading Catalonian artists (the four ‘gats’): Ramon Casas, Santiago Rusiñol, Miquel Utrillo and Pere Romeu.

Its name is a homage to Le Chat Noir, the French café after which the 4 Gats is modeled. The phrase ‘four cats’ also colloquially means ‘just a few’ in Catalan, indicating the elitist nature of its frequenters.

Today a replica of the famous painting done by Casas still hangs where it did over a century ago. It is an image of Casas and Romeu riding a tandem bicycle, with Casas in the lead, struggling to move the pair forward, as well as (symbolically) the underground Catalan art movement of the turn of the twentieth century.

The Casa Mila

Name: Amanda
CIEE Barcelona Program: Language & Culture
Semester: Summer 2012
Home School:  Hobart and William Smith Colleges

As part of the CIEE Barcelona Summer course on Architecture, Art and Design in Contemporary Barcelona, students will be posting a series of site visit reviews on the blog.

As a class we walked to Casa Mila, which was designed by Gaudí. While outside we analyzed the exterior of the building and how it seemed to be very unplanned and random but in actuality every bit of it was. Once inside the incredible Modernisme style monument, we were able to view the inner façade of one of the wind shafts as well as one of the only roofs in Barcelona that took design
and creativity into consideration as all of the chimneys, stairwells and water tanks were topped with incredible sculptures. The other two parts of the building we explored were the attic, which contained a miniature museum of the succession of many of Guadí’s works where as a class we discussed many of the buildings in depth, and one of the apartments within the building to see how the twisting walls and bizarre layout affected ones living arrangements.
The relevance of our class’s trip to Casa Mila was that we had already seen multiple buildings on Le Eixample that demonstrated the competition to create the best and most creative buildings using organic lines and modern materials such as iron and designed tile works. Casa Mila although was not on Le Eixample was considered a part of it because it was a truly Modernisme styled building. The exterior was comprised of very organic wave-like lines and as a result some residents claimed that the monument was like the Montserrat Mountains of the city, along with reused iron gate balcony’s that were so intricately woven and curved it appeared to look like seaweed once again alluding to the fact that nature played a huge part in his designs. Gaudi used the new technique of trencadus as well on the roof for his garden of sculptures that demonstrated first hand how ingenious this technique of smashing tiles in order to create a pattern on a curved surface was.
Lastly, in the attic we were able to view parabolic arches that were designed and in fact created by Gaudi himself, which is the strongest form.

My favorite part of the trip to Casa Mila was learning about the structure of the building. This was the first time that Gaudi had ever employed the use of modern materials such as iron before as he preferred to use more traditional materials such as stone. But, as a result of his use of modern technology, he was able to create a wavy façade that was self-supporting using column garders and
joists. The iron use also allowed for him to create and open plan on the interior, which was breath taking with the painted interior walls and raw iron designs.

Another part of this trip that I enjoyed was viewing the attic because it is unlike most of Gaudi’s other works in that it was purely functional using only brick parabolic arches. Being able to see two extremes of Gaudi was eye opening and made me realize the beauty in simplicity as well as overt decadence portrayed on the roof.


Fundació Joan Miró

As part of the CIEE Barcelona Summer course on Architecture, Art and Design in Contemporary Barcelona, students will be posting a series of site visit reviews on the blog.  

Name: Joe
CIEE Barcelona Program: Language & Culture
Semester: Summer 2012
Home School:  Princeton University


On June 19th we visited the museum dedicated to Joan Miró in Barcelona, which is called Fundació Joan Miró and is located on the hill of Montjuic. The museum itself was designed by the famous modern Catalan architect Josep Lluís Sert. This visit marks the end of our study on the role Catalan artists played in the Surrealist Movement. Miró never formally identified himself as a surrealist or with their social and political agendas. However, prominent artists like Dalí and Picasso were his contemporaries and surrealist strategies like focusing on the subconscious mind pervade much of Miró’s work. The visit to this museum was well timed for two reasons. First, Miró seems the most appropriate person for wrapping up our study of surrealism. Also, the location and style of the museum itself emphasize a new age of architecture and urban development in Barcelona.

Fundació Joan Miró is organized chronologically, and in the beginning we see that Miró first experimented with other styles both modern and traditional in an attempt to find his niche.  It is noteworthy that Miró was by no means technically extraordinary, and in fact he struggled with detailed and complex drawing. On the contrary, his skill as a colorist even at a young age was unparalleled. As the museum progresses, visitors can see how over the course of his life Miró became less concerned with detailed forms and shapes and instead opted to create emphasis through other means by way of a much more organic and unique style. The means he chose are embodied in the series of paintings he called Constellations (1940-41); the important elements of these works include the presence of celestial and earthly beings, the connection of these beings to emphasis both chaos and order, and the distortion and exaggeration of some features in these beings to create other effects.


It is understandable that many of my classmates did not enjoy the majority of Miró’s work. His style is very difficult in that it does not tell a narrative, but merely reflects his moods and methods at different times. On the other hand, I enjoyed his unorthodox work very much. Particularly, I admire how he would create art using whatever material regardless of its texture: We saw enormous tapestries made of yarn and art made with tar or plaster and other works clearly distorted by fire. I think the most important mistake to not make when considering Mirós work is to remember his art was not done randomly— behind every seemingly meaningless moon and undirected line, there is always some overarching order and purpose. I believe Miró’s stylistic decision to create art that disguises itself in its simplicity and his ability to evoke complex feelings with simple coloring are a testament and not a detractor to his importance.

*Check out the Fundació Joan Miró here:


Picasso Museum

As part of the CIEE Barcelona Summer course on Architecture, Art and Design in Contemporary Barcelona, students will be posting a series of site visit reviews on the blog. Below, Tory explains one of the course's first visits to the Picasso Museum.

Name: Tory
CIEE Barcelona Program: Language & Culture
Semester: Summer 2012
Home School:  Princeton University

Picasso Museum (C/ Montcada 15-23, Barcelona, Spain)

Photograph of Pablo Picasso outside of the Museum.

            Pablo Ruiz Picasso was born in 1881 in Malaga, Spain, but at the age of 13, he moved with his family to Barcelona. While his time in Barcelona was not long, it was a formative time in his life. When the museum opened in 1963, it was just one building, but it now spans five buildings on Calle Montcada. Upon the museums’ conception, Picasso agreed to donate the works from his Barcelona times as well as a copy of his subsequent works. The collection is chronologically arranged and the bulk of the collection is made up of his very first works through his blue period.

            The first room in the museum contains Picasso’s earliest works from Malaga. Some of his earliest works were on cardboard, reflecting the high expense that art materials posed to the young artist’s family. His earlier works focused a lot on natural scenes and portraits, and the subjects of his portraits were often family members, such as his father, mother, and even a cousin that would model for him. One of the most impressive of Picasso’s early works is First Communion, depicting the holy communion of Picasso’s sister, done when Picasso was just 14 years old. This painting is important because it shows that Picasso had mastered the traditional style of painting at a very young age- possibly explaining why he felt the need to explore new, less conventional artistic styles. Another impressive early work by Picasso is Science and Charity, an allegorical painting done in Barcelona in 1897.

            After the traditional works comes the blue period, or “La Época Azul.” This marks Picasso’s shift from the polychromatic to the monochromatic, and the subject shift to items of sadness and despair. Death, homelessness, and insanity center in the works of the blue period, but none of the most known works of the period are at the Picasso museum in Barcelona. After the blue period, the works in the collection begin to lack coherency. As Picasso moved to Paris permanently in 1904, the works after this year are either from his 1917 visit to Barcelona or much later years, such as the 58 canvases that make up the Las Meninas series from 1957.

            The Picasso Museum may not contain the most well known of Picasso’s works, but it illustrates an important period in the development of Picasso as an artist.

Sources: Tour of the Picasso Museum by Professor Magda Bernaus and the Picasso Museum website (

Picasso-museum1  Visiting-Picasso-Museum-in-Barcelona
For more information on visiting the Picasso Museum, click here: