Month: December 2013

Sidewalks

Acera

It seems simple, but it is not that way in many cases. I have recently read some Mexican blogs in which the sidewalk issue seems to be complex there: wild parking on the sidewalks, or even absence of them. In Madrid the issue is rather that of a good use of the public space, as for benchs or kioscs. Or café and restaurant tables…

Un espectáculo inusual en el puerto de Vigo

You know, I do like big ships…

Del acontecer portuario

Juan Carlos Díaz Lorenzo

En la ciudad marinera e industrial de Vigo, acostumbrada en otro tiempo todavía reciente a los hitos de la construcción naval, la presencia del buque dique “Blue Marlin” y del buque LHD “Adelaide” sobre su cubierta, constituye un espectáculo de primer orden. Resuelto con plenas garantías la ubicación del segundo sobre la cubierta del primero, ambos permanecen atracados al muelle de trasatlánticos mientras los operarios realizan distintos trabajos –entre ellos la soldadura del casco a la cuna expresamente preparada en Navantia Ferrol–, de modo que garanticen la estabilidad durante el viaje.

Las imágenes hablan por sí solas, como podemos apreciar en las fotografías que nos envían nuestros amigos José Luis Barrio Cano y Alfredo Campos Brandón. Refrendo todo ello del buen y bien quehacer profesional de un grupo de especialistas de la ría de Vigo, que acreditan su nivel. La estructura del buque “Adelaide” sobresale de…

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Biblio (70) 2011 Spanish census

The Instituto Nacional de Estadística has published on December 12 the detailed results of the 2011 people and housing census. Among other results:

–           The average number of persons in a household has gone down to 2,58 (2,86 in 2011)

–           Some 4 million households are couples with no kids

–           1,7 million people work at home

–           The number of rental housing units has increased 51% in the last ten years, but the global ratio is still low.

–           The ratio of home ownership has decreased for the first time in decades

A quick summary: Spain is subject to relevant evolutions.

Barcelona (23) War Memories

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My father’s parents never talked to my mother’s, for the plain good reason that they didn’t speak each other’s language. I have been in family celebrations in which there was even a third language, and most of the people were not even able to speak at least two. But everyone knew that the person in front was not speaking a different language to offend him. They also knew that even if the person by his side could speak a common language, if they were talking to their wife/son/cousin in their everyday language it was not a disrespect, but simply habit, instinct. This is why I don’t understand some attitudes towards Catalan in other parts of Spain, and mainly in Madrid (I don’t understand either any rational criteria in some attitudes by a minority of Catalans).

My family also has memories from the XXth century European wars; my grandparents lived them in bad situations, and my parents were born just in the middle of the wars that raged in their respective countries, having to endure uneasy post-war years. My mom says that the first concept she associated with the word German was “boots”, as she heard patrols at night. But this has not led them to define their identity on the memory of this suffering; it is just a part, but a minute one.

This long preamble arises from the fact that architecture has sometimes a sense that goes beyond physical shape. Some days ago I visited the El Born Cultural Center, a former market that was intended to become a public library. During refurbishment works the previous city streets were discovered; the neighbourhood had been razed after the invasion of Barcelona in 1714 during the Sucession War. This allowed the war winners to set up a citadel to control the rebel city, leaving around an open, barren area to see any enemy coming. The cultural centre, into the refurbished market, includes an exhibition on the historical moment and the siege which has been well funded (although some of its statements seem to be far from consensual)

Imagining today what the Sucession War for the Spanish crown meant is complex. I am not an historian, so I will accept any correction. Judging from what I have read it would be as if Mitt Romney had not accepted Obama’s victory and a civil war followed. Each of the two sides would have the help not just from a part of the States, but also their overseas bases and dependencies; and the help of a large foreign power (China, Russia…) eager to grab as much as possible from the larger empire on earth. The war wreaked havoc around the then known world, and what Barcelona experienced was the dubious honour of being the last visible bulwark (but for Cardona) of the losers

But Succession War was not started to destroy Barcelona, as many of the successive wars that unfortunately afflicted the city; Barcelona suffered during the 1936-1939 civil war, but Madrid was during that same time a front line city. That’s why I find hard to understand why there is a movement (sizeable in number) that wants to give that event, which happened 3 centuries ago, such a central role in Catalan identity, which seems vastly more interesting in other terms. I understand that for some this marked the advent of a new centralist regime under the Bourbon dynasty, but there is one thing that Catalans have proved again and again for three centuries: that an uniform regime does not produce homogeneous outputs, and that there is always a way to be different in a positive way.

Let’s not forget what the original intent of this post was: the market has been duly restored, and it is worth a visit.

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Barcelona (22) Roofs

A view from Hotel H10 in Via Laietana. 1 Agbar tower, in Plaza de las Glorias, 2 Ciutadella Park starts, 3 towers at the Olympic harbor, 4 Ciutadella park ends

A view from Hotel H10 in Via Laietana. 1 Agbar tower, in Plaza de las Glorias, 2 Ciutadella Park starts, 3 towers at the Olympic harbor, 4 Ciutadella park ends

It is often worth going to an upper belvedere (here the roof terrace of a hotel in Via Laietana) and see what is around. Buildings can seem rather well behaved from ground level, but roofs, especially when you have flat ones that can be used as in Barcelona, allow a more individual expression (as in cemeteries, you can express yourself through architecture usually with more freedom).

What do barceloneses say from their penthouses? Some have created gardens/forests, some hotels have established their own paradises with swimming pool to enjoy tapas o drinks (not during winter…) and there are many traditional rooftop clotheslines. Those willing (and able) make a statement with towers or domes of any kind.

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Barcelona (21) Massive

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XXth century “high architecture” has often been all about attaining a lightness that defies the massive condition of architecture. But there was a time when the idea whas quite different, and not just for ornament. When Lluis Domenech i Montaner builds the Palau de la Música Catalana in 1908 he works on a massive block that so becomes a number of things. Some recent aditions by Tusquets are also noteworthy

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Barcelona (19)The charms

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Open since September 25, 2013, the Mercat dels Encants tries to do with Barcelona’s flea market what Haussmann did at Les Halles with the Paris market: put a large umbrella (here reflecting and golden) over all the stalls. The solution given by architects here (B720- Fermín Vazquez) seems to be a success. It is by the Stapler, on the Plaza de las Glorias, and the Tapas stalls on the upper part are a success.

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