Sunday, June 28, 2009

High point.

In Barcelona now.

We have had a succession of high points on this trip, each one briefly holding the title of "best of trip".

Friday afternoon will be hard to beat. Jordi Fauli, one of the chief architects of the continuation of the Sageada Familia, gave us a four-hour tour of the church, the working studio and model shop, and of the construction site. We were taken into the scaffolding over the nave and were able to see up use the complex geometry of the vaults.

From the slightly rickety scaffolds 250 feet above Barcelona, we were treated to a view of the city, and of Gaudi's original towers, from a truly priveleged vantage point.

Extraordinary photos to follow.

We've just left Mies's Barcelona Pavillion. The students feel at home.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Last night most off the group gathered after class to watch the US play Spain in the semifinals of the Confederations Cup soccer tournament. We were heavy underdogs, and no one here much respects US soccer. Basketball, yes. But not soccer.

We virtually took over the bar we decided on, and once the US scored in the 27th minute, our group began to cheer with such passion that most of the Spanish left in the bar departed for friendlier parts.

The USA won 2-0. Spain had not lost in 35 straight matches. We must bring good luck.

No one seemed too upset, but just to be sure, I immediately shushed the group of students that began the "U-S-A" chant after the match ended. Probably best not to rub it in. Though I read every newspaper this morning to savor the Spanish surprise at having been upset by a bunch of 'yanquis' that know nothing about soccer.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


A pintxo is a Basque tapa.

It´s usually served on bread, and one grabs what one wants from platters on the bar.

Romina and I have just eaten many.

We found perhaps the best Pintxo bar so far, in a sterile new neighborhood of housing slabs, where we´d gone to check out the Moneo church under construction (I worked on this project several years back and was astonished to see it almost complete).

If you happen to be in the Riberas de Loiola neighborhood of San Sebastian, we highly suggest you stop by Bar Alkain.

Chillida in San Sebastian

Today´s highlight: a visit to the Chillida Leku museum, a vast park on the outskirts of San Sebastian dedicated to the work of Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida.

The sun appeared later in the day, after we also crossed town to see the Peine de los Vientos, a piece by Chillida that grows out of the rocks, suspended over the sea.

Friday, June 19, 2009

All okay except for the rain.

A note to all family members and loved ones reading here: we are all perfectly fine.

The Basque terrorist group ETA detonated a bomb in the suburbs of Bilbao today. A police officer was killed. We are in Bilbao today, but I just found out about the bomb right now, as I checked the NY Times.

Life goes on in Bilbao. Everyone is just fine, though the rain has complicated our plans.

A note about Mérida

Moneo's Museum is still one of the high points of the trip. A complete experience. We were all really quiet for a while after we go out. I had seen the building in 1994. I don't think I understood it then. But this time, it hit me and many of us, pardon the obvious but unintentional pun, like a ton of bricks.

Unexpected finds in Santiago de Compostela

Antón Garcia Abril - SGAC Headquarters. Newer Brutalism.

The things I've been to busy to note.

No luck finding time or free wifi lately. Not since Mérida. Since then: Lisbon, where we happened on to one of the biggest holidays and street parties of the year; Porto, where we heard a piano concert in Koolhaas's Casa da Musica (and where Jacob Ernst wore long pants) and where I learned to get past the decay of the city and discover a charming city; Santiago de Compostela, where we were given a warm welcome and an hours-long visit to the construction site of Eisenman's City of Culture - a building that seemed to me simultaneously beautiful, tragic, and exhausting; León, where Mansilla and Tuñon's MUSAC and auditorium were the main draw, and where several of us attended a harrowing two-hour theatre performance of La Fura Dels Baus, in which we were all subjected to a simulated hostage-taking; and on to delightful Burgos today , where I truly wish we had more time just to be, not to see anything in particular.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009

Merida has a nice pool by the bus station

Thursday june 11,
me, sam, matt, dan, tyler, archit, the other dan, nicole and brian were stuck in Merida, till 1 in the morning while the rest had left for Lisbon, earlier at 4 that evening.
I can´t say for others, but for me, matt, dan and ty it was a blessing in disguise. We found a nice pool in a neighbourhood next to the bus station . We spent a good 4 hours there, ate pizza at a plaza across the river, and relaxed in a park till our bus for Lisbon was ready.

Where only architects dare to tread.

No time to post lately. Every day, it seems, brings a new city: Granada, Seville, and we're now on the bus to Mérida, where we'll we Rafael Moneo's National Museum of Roman Art, probably one of the most important buildings of the last 40 years.

Merida's a small place - probably no more than 75,000 people, though about 2000 years ago it was the capital of the Roman province of Lusitania, roughly corresponding to modern-day Portugal. Today, it's a regional capital, but pretty sleepy in general. When I went up to the window at the bus station to make sure all 29 of us would be able to buy tickets to Merida, the ticket agent looked at me, puzzled: "What is there in Merida?" she asked.

"A museum," I replied. This response did not seem satisfactory to the woman behind the counter, though she sold us the tickets anyway.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


The cathedral destroyed a huge chunk of the mosque, but it still has to fit into the rhythm set up by the original building. So it's not all bad, see?

An admission

I have just arrived in Granada after about 18 hours in Córdoba, where we saw the Great Mosque and the Alcazar before dashing off to catch the 7:20 to Granada.

This was the second time I'd seen the mosque, but it left me as speechless as before. I know it's not the most fashionable position but I really don't dislike the 16th-century cathedral that sits in the center of the mosque. It's violent and awful in some way, but I can't get myself to hate it. Is that ok?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Usera Library - Ábalos + Herreros

A highlight from yesterday. A photo I did not take.

A mystery.

How is it that I eat fried food at every meal and have lost five pounds so far?

prof. Goodman not in BLACK !

On the day of our trip to the historical city of Toledo, Prof. Goodman sported a white shirt, a pair of dirty green pants and green sandals to match. This and the ugly archive buildinng were the highlights of the trip.

El-escorial. casa loco

A roof toop view of El Croquis owners house in El Escorial.
it was a hell of a hike and we saw some cows and a couple of bulls lingring around the area!!

Friday, June 5, 2009


Today was our last day together in Madrid--given the advanced state of exhaustion in which both students and faculty find themselves, we have decided to take most of the day off tomorrow. We more than made up for it today. We began with a guided tour and some verbal sparring with overzealous security guards at the Regional Archive and library by Mansilla and Tunon. Probably the best building so far- a reworking of a 29th century beer factory and a huge channel glass-clad addition. Then, off to gritty Usera and the public library by Abalos and Herreros. A mini-skyscraper for books. Wonderful. Then a marathon walk past housing blocks by Wiel Arets to a suburban train that took us to a childrens' swim meet at Alberto Nicolau's wavy-roofed public pool in Valdemoro. One student, who shall remain nameless, attracted the attention of all the teenage girls.

A very long day....and still so much we haven't been able to see.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Trains in Spain

The students seem to have completely mastered the Madrid metro system, which is a major accomplishment, as it's one of the largest in the world. I hear them talking among themselves about the most efficient ways to get from one place to another, about where to change trains, and how to avoid transfers.

The infrastructure here is decades ahead of the US. The highways are perfect, subways, trams, and high speed trains link everything together. The students have begun asking why we don't have this kind of thing in Chicago. I have no good answers.

El Escorial

It can take awhile for El Escorial to sink in. We spent the entire day in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, about an hour's train ride from Madrid. Phillip II spent all the gold in South America to build the immense palace and monastery that dominates the mountainside here. I quite honestly don't know what the students thought of it. The language is muted, the building is stark, mute and austere. Perhaps tonight it will sink in.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Aching feet.

The program officially began 40 hours ago. We have been walking for about 20 of those hours. My feet are not happy. Still, the things we're seeing are amazing, even if they're not new to me. Today's big surprise: de la Hoz's headquarters for Telefonica: a huge campus under a delicate roof. Beautiful multilayered facade. We end the day in Parque Juan Carlos I, where Nicole performed backflips and Jacob and Tyler competed in Downhill Longjump.

Friday, May 29, 2009

In Madrid

Having fled Barcelona only minutes before the return of newly crowned European champions FC Barcelona (a sight that this Madridista could not bear) we arrived in Madrid about 3 hours ago. I have eaten a large plate of patatas bravas. Life is good.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

What Lisbon Feels Like.

For those who've never heard Madredeus, it might not be a bad idea to bring them along. This is "guitarra," from the 1994 Wim Wenders film "Lisbon Story".

de viaje

some music is one of the most important things to have in your luggage.
so, I'm starting with the content...

Spain/Portugal 2009 Book

For those who need more than one copy, or those who never got one, we've made the Volume 1 of the Spain/Portgual Travel Book available on

Volume two, which will include students' drawings, photos, collages, etc., will be available after the trip ends.

Begin the begin.

Choosing a suitcase is a difficult business. The backpack is, of course, a classic, with or without decoy Canadian flag patch.  The typical wheelie isn't bad either. 

We leave tomorrow. I have not yet chosen a suitcase. 

This is where we start. Updates to follow as possible.