In May 2006, students, faculty, and friends of Georgia State University explored the beauty of Barcelona, Spain. The course offered by the Master of Heritage Preservation Program at GSU was entitled Landscapes of Memory: History, Culture and Historic Preservation in Barcelona. Our travels were arranged Director of the Master Program, Richard Laub and our guides were a variety of experts in the fields of history, archaeology, architecture and preservation. It provided us with the opportunity to study the history of Barcelona and the ways in which their historic resources are remembered, preserved and presented to the public.
The group departed from Atlanta the night of May 14 to arrive in Barcelona early the following day. Our accommodation for the trip was the lovely Hotel Aston, where we were provided with a European breakfast of meat, bread, and meat daily.
After a day of rest, we hit the streets with our guide for the majority of the trip Heiko Trittler, an architect and historian from Barcelona. Our days often started with a history lesson of the city or the area we would be visiting followed by walking tour of a section of Barcelona. The trip began with the Barí Gotic (old town) and the story of Barcelona from Roman roots to the bustling city it is today.
One of the things that make Barcelona so fascinating is how the city built upon and around itself. The Roman wall still stands in many parts of the city with medieval structures and walls using it for support. The cathedrals that dot the city are excellent examples of gothic architecture from the Cathedral to the Sant Mar.
The following day, the group sampled of the works of Gaudí with the Sagrada Familia and Parc Güell, two of the most famous structures in Barcelona. Those not afraid of heights had the amazing opportunity to climb to the roof, which is currently under construction. The Sagrada Familia is a cathedral has been under construction since 1882 and is expected to be completed in another 50 years. Parc Güell is quite the opposite; it is a failed garden city which is now a public park. Designed to depict the unearthing of Atlantis (the roots of the Catalunya nation according to a priest), the mosaic benches are one of the most comfortable seats you will experience as they curve to fit your back. Other highlights of the day was the Hospital Sant Pau and the Palau de la Musica.
Our trip was not limited to Barcelona. Thanks to a superior network of trains, we ventured out to neighboring towns, the first one being Tarragona. This small, sea-side city was the ancient Roman capital of Spain. One of the only roman amphitheaters located by the ocean is located in this town. It is located next to what remains of the Roman circus.
Week one concluded with a visit to the city park and the governmental buildings. Parc de la Ciudatella contains buildings constructed for the World’s Exposition held in Barcelona at the turn of the 19th century. We learned that sometimes you have to walk around a building a few times in order to get the doors to open.
Those of us who did not have weekend trips planned stayed after lunch to catch a rare glimpse inside the Generalitat and the Ajudament, the White House of Barcelona.
A weekend of rest and the group was ready to hit the streets again. We eased into our pace with a day of observing the homes on the block of dischord. A variety of architects constructed homes on a single stretch of the main road, Passa de Gracía, but none of the houses match each other, so to speak. It makes for quite a view.
On Day 9, we headed out of the city to view the roman and medieval roots of the area in Girona and Besalú. Within these towns, the old cathedrals still stand and the roman wall, which tourists can still walk, is now well inside the city instead of boarding the outside. The Arab Baths and Jewish Call are well preserved in Girona. Besalú is home to an almost perfectly preserved Jewish bath, or mikvah, that was used until the Jews were exiled from Spain.
We move from the ancient to the contemporary on Day 10. Clare Nelson, our architect guide for the second leg of our trip, showed us around Montjunic. The majority of this section of Barcelona was constructed for the 1929 world exposition, then upgraded for the Olympics held in 1992. In the morning, students viewed the artwork of Catalunya at the National Museum of Catalan Art (MNAC). Luck would have it that there was also an exhibit of church frescos dating from the 9th to 13th centuries that we were able to view. After lunch, we strolled through the Olympic Stadium and surrounding buildings.
Because we were so efficient with seeing sites, we had a half day on Thursday and meet Clare Nelson after lunch to view the Tuberculosis Clinic by Sert before traveling outside the city to see Colonia Güell. At the clinic, Clare lectured us on how Barcelona use to be constructed with small streets that did not let any light in or any disease out. The clinic and the whole reconstruction of the block was the city’s attempt to improve the health of its dying people.
Colonial Güell was a self-sufficient city designed by Gaudí and other architects of the day. The crypt Güell is one of the most significant and beautiful structures in the town.
Friday we left town once again, this time to visit the monks who live in Montserrat. This “jagged mountain” has been home to a closter of monks for centuries. We were granted a special, private tour of the monks home as our preservation architect guide, Arcadi Pla, told us of the challenges and rewards in restoring this site. Montserrat is known for housing the Black Madonna, rumored to have made its way to Barcelona with one of the apostles.
Our final day of touring was spent in Terrassa, a quaint town outside of Barcelona. Students viewed three medieval churches, one of which was still in the process of uncovering the inside of the church. We then loosened up at a Science and Technology museum that use to be a factory. After lunch, the group headed back to Barcelona
Monday night the group met one last time for a farewell dinner at El Mussol. Unfortunately, we could not party all night- many of us had to still pack for our departure the next day.
Sixteen days after our journey began, we returned home to the United States. The trip and the people who we shared the experience with will not be forgotten.
GSU © 2006