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01/26/2016

ARCHITECTURE + DESIGN, SPRING 2016, NEWSLETTER I

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First days at ELISAVA (new Design track in English!)

This Spring semester, three CIEE students on the Architecture and Design program have signed up for the new ELISAVA Study Abroad program. This new program, taught in English, has been recently launched by ELISAVA School of Design, our long-time partner for direct enrollment courses in Spanish. The new program is completely taught in English and it thus provides students that don’t speak Spanish well the opportunity or being part of the local design scene too.

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Mercedes, from Lehigh University, was very excited to meet the other international students and to visit the school’s classrooms and workshops

Living like locals, designing for locals

Shortly after arrival students in the program Architecture track started their classes. As part of their “Architecture studio” class, they visited Casa Bloc, an apartment building initiated in 1933 by the Catalan government with the objective to create quality, modern housing that met the basic standards of living, for workers in need. The purpose of this visit was to provide precedents for the students’ first project with Prof. Rafael Gómez-Moriana: an “ideal apartment unit”.

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Beth, Emily, Gabrielle and Tyler enjoying their visit to Casa Bloc

Unlike North America, where most people live in houses, in Spain most people live in pisos, or apartments. The apartment usually doesn’t have windows on all sides.There’s always some sort of communal entrance and stairway, and with luck also an elevator. Life in apartment buildings is much less private: the noise, cooking smells and eyes of neighbors often take some getting used to.

Yet, apartment life is the future of cities. The single family house is entirely dependent on the availability of cheap energy and cheap land, and who knows how much longer that will last. What can architecture do so that the quality of life in apartments is good? Bringing daylight into all the bedrooms and living and dining room of an apartment is an architectural challenge. How can apartments perhaps even generate part of the energy they consume from renewable sources? Can apartments be designed with some flexibility in mind, so that different kinds of households can use them in different ways? Can apartments be built more affordably, so that more people can access them? Can they be built in a way that emits less carbon into the atmosphere, thereby slowing climate change? These are the most important questions facing housing design today, and they are architectural questions.

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