I hit one of my lowest points in life by becoming unemployed sooner than I had intended and have been trying to swallow the heaviest amount of career anxiety and insecurities. From moving to Tokyo a week after graduating by myself and learning Japanese in a firm, then moving back to Los Angeles by myself and relearning those cultural customs, and now moving to NYC…moving/home finding has always been a chaotic process for me.
I’ve been planning to move to NYC for a variety of reasons (public transpo, energy in the air, vibrant streets, food scene, hope to learn from challenges and career growth) but realized it’s riskier than I’d thought. Yet I’ve learned that rather than sit back and be defeated by career/location uncertainty, I have to keep my hands moving. I keep telling myself to make something out of this abrupt break in my life and do things that I couldn’t do otherwise. Before searching my next career/home, catching up on my Chefcharette blog, watercolor paintings, I packed up my Everlane bag and flew to Barcelona to stay at Fernando’s casa. After hustling through 2 layovers, major Catalan confusion and public transportation issues (2 Catalan men misdirected me to the wrong airport exits/trains), international data loss/iphone issues, I miraculously made my way to this Gothic cathedral to meet Fernando’s sweet mother, who welcomed me into Fernando’s casa. From October 1-4, I immersed myself in Fernando’s home, in the heart of Catalonia: with walks to various Gaudi casa’s in the midst of Catalonian protests.
Fernando, this 6’2″ Catalan man who typically hovers over me laughing and sends me hilarious / thoughtful voice messages to my phone, has been my favorite Catalan Architect partner in crime. We met in 2015 through other gaijin architecture friends in Omotesando, when he began designing the Camp Nou with Nikken Sekkei. I was so giddy-happy all over his gorgeous casa that he designed – every angle was so photogenic and serene, rustic Catalan yet also minimalist and modern, that I immediately overcame jet lag to happily shoot about 200 shots before my first sunset.
While Fernando was busily working on Camp Nou, with the exception of the morning he hiked with me and prepared one helluva savory pumpkin pasta lunch for me, I explored Barcelona solo. With the exception of to/from the airport, I walked to every destination to save some euros for food/exhibit tickets/gifts to take home and of course, to burn off some of the fat and calories I consumed.
I also sacrifice my time and sore feet because it enables me to live more like a local resident, celebrate and protest with the city for independence, visualize the city’s beauty so intimately. I especially love the opportunities I’m given to interact with locals, despite my awful Spanish that sounded more like Japanese, and discover “secret” photogenic moments that others miss.
GOTHIC QUARTERS / Barri Gòtic
I’ve never been more terrified and happier to walk through the oldest streets, medieval staircases and alleys with still existing wounds from war, ongoing protests to prepare my own charcuterie plate in Fernando’s kitchen in between.
After preparing my own meals, I’d head out to knock out a few off my list of “places to see”, which consisted mainly of Antonio Gaudi. I first learned of Gaudi- Catalonia’s infamous art nouveau architect – back when I studied AP Art History in the 10th grade. I vividly recall seeing his voluptuous colors and texture, organic forms, and masterpieces including Sagrada Familia and Casa Mila in my Gardner’s Art Through the Ages textbook. Sagrada Familia is one helluva colossal cathedral that scrapes the Catalan sky with several cranes and is estimated to be the tallest church in Europe. Gaudi worked on this -what I call “Hogwarts on Steroids” – for 40 years until his death, and has been under construction for over 70 years…. which is ongoing until its completion year: 2030/2032. I wonder if the constant demand for Gaudi (swarm of visitors which prevented me twice from entering / long ass walks almost to waste) is funding this insane project.
gAUDI – CASA MILà / ‘LA PEDRERA’ (1906–1908)
After wandering around aimlessly to find the ticket booth was and realizing the ticket booth and main entrance was closed because of the protests, a few ladies also was also visiting from the states, asked me if I wanted to join them to check out Casa Mila, another favorite Gaudi masterpiece.
GAUDI – CASA Batlló (1904–1906)
Just a 20 minute walk from Fernando’s home, down and along Passeig de Gràcia, sat Casa Batlló. This casa was undoubtedly the trippiest home I’ve ever visited, yet made me glad that I flew to Barcelona. I’ve been feeling particularly uneasy about my academic background and work experience in architecture, financially/mentally drained of how limiting the field has been for me, yet this casa revived my love for architecture. It revealed how architecture isn’t limited to a 32″-36″ wide orthogonal door, a ceiling does not have to be a flat gypsum board surface perpendicular to the wall, but could turn and twist with wrought iron balconies and windows that altogether resemble skeletons and sea creatures, and still be accepted into society and loved by cultures. The facade protruded out as a unique jewel, while the roof resembled reptile skin and the balconies resembled skulls – thus brings the name : house of skulls.
MIES VAN DER ROHE – BARCELONA PAVILION (1929, rebulit 1986)
I walked 45 min. southwest to the Barcelona pavillion, wondering if the walk was really worth the trip all the way out of my way because this minimalist building would cost me an hour walk + detour. This has been on my architectural-must-visit list for some time as well, for its serenity, sleekness and this gorgeous Georg Kolbe’s sculpture. It was originally built from glass, steel, and different kinds of marble to serve as the German national pavilion for the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition, and fortunately rebuilt in its same location. My sketch/painting is still in progress, but I’m very excited to finish it.
Yet I loved it so much there that if I could, I’d spend an hour longer just sitting and painting other shades and reflections. Really stoked to finish a few paintings of it.
Thank you Fernando for such incredible hospitality, thank you Barcelona for fulfilling my fragile self with so much design inspiration, scrumptious meats, and various sweets.