El-Tanein Diet Week #15, #16, and #17

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I did it again. I bunched 3 weeks in 1 post.

Excuse: I’ve been in hermit mode ever since my roommate left because we went into overdrive before her departure from BCN. I’m a little burnt out in a good way. I came home each night last week wanting to catch up on blogging but would end up bingeing on How to Get Away With Murder. Damn you and your writers’ storytelling skills, Shonda. Then, the weekend rolled around and I realized that my time in Spain is also running out. Overdrive continued and I museum hopped and ticked off more stops on the “must-see” list before I return to Beirut in the time of cholera.

SERIO, I’ll post every Monday from now on since I’m down to TWO MORE WEEKS here. Gotta make them count! *presses play on 8th episode in a row*

Workout Tally

Walking everywhere for 21 days

Outdoor Activity

See above or below.

Fitbit Flex

I’m starting to give up on this accessory. I hardly ever sync it and forget to charge it most of the time too. It hasn’t been doing its job to motivate me and I only remember it’s there when I hit 10K which is rare during the week when I max out at 7-8K come nightfall. It used to be more effective when I was moving less. My walking here is more out of necessity than planned fitness so the counting doesn’t matter as much. We’ll see how I feel when I go back home.

Best Meals of the Weeks

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Before I crown the winners, let me say that Barcelona is a designer-who’s-a-foodie’s dream. The restaurants are beautifully designed from interior to menus AND the food is usually delicious as well. Did I mention how much I love cava?

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Week 15: Tapas and sangria at Casa Lolea, a sangria factory located down the street from Palau de la Musica Catalana. I liked 3 things about this quaint little eatery: the cheese section on the menu, the sangria bottle design, and the truffle risotto.

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Week 16: Sunday brunch at Hotel Barcelo in Raval. For 25 euros/person, you get open buffet with a cocktail on the roof. Great view of the entire city and then you can go check out the stands on Rambla de Raval selling handmade goods.

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Week 17: Carrot Cake at Pudding, a cafe right out of Alice in Wonderland. The actual food is mediocre but the setup is great for coffee and carrot cake. Order the carrot cake.

Other Highlights

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Bibo and my leather obsession: I wandered into this brand’s shop in Born only to want everything. Turns out they’re all over Barcelona and they’re very fairly priced considering they’re selling Spanish leather goods. Sniff.

Working on my Barcelona clip: I’ve been trying to take some quick clips using my Polaroid Cube. Hopefully, something worthy will come of the footage. Otherwise, I’ll just show you some pigeons in Plaça Catalunya.

Being the oldest people at an R&B club: No one warned us that Otto Zutz is full of prepubescent hormones but they played some decent R&B so I danced my face off and didn’t care. Pretty sure some of the songs were older than the people dancing to them.

Going through McDonald’s Drive Thru in a cab at 3 am: I don’t know how this happened. Okay, I do. We told the cab we wanted an open McDonald’s and he didn’t tell us it was drive-thru only until we got there. We weren’t going to go home after going all the way down to the beach with BigMac anticipation. Ain’t nothing like heart-attacks in a box at 4 in the morning.

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Dressing up for Halloween:
First time since I was 12 maybe? I was La Calavera Catrina, an icon of Mexican dia de muertos. My roommate (dressed as The Joker) and I walked through the Gothic Quarter and danced to R&B (again) in a hole in the wall somewhere in Born. But all that was only after we walked back home to make sure my carved pumpkin was not a fire hazard. Oops. Apparently, Halloween isn’t really a thing in Spain but La Castanyada, a popular festival that occurs around All Saints Day, is a big deal in Catalonia.

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I was one of those losers in line for H&MxBalmain: 
But in my defense, I was fully aware of the idiocy of doing such a thing. In my normal life, I would not have done such a brainless act of pure consumerism but seeing that I’m living a semi-life here, I figured I’d see what it’s like to be a fashion lemming for a brand that I wish I’ll be able to afford one day. It felt like I was a Huffington Post Snapchatter covering the event; I was there for shopping but I felt like an observer because the whole thing was an outer body experience. I have never seen people behave like that for clothing. I’d always heard of people lining up for Apple products or new releases but it was truly fascinating to see the crazy come out. From an advertising perspective, the entire campaign leading up to the launch was genius. They gave us free coffee!

Workout Track(s) of the Weeks

Week 15:

Not a new track but I’ve had it on my playlist forever and I’ve been using it to put a spring in my step during the morning walks. Ever had a song that makes you strut a la John Travolta? This is my BeeGees groove.
Week 16:

My German colleague returned from a holiday spent in Bali. Doesn’t this tune sound like you should be in a hammock in Bali? Or working out at the gym…for your beach body. Right.
Week 17:

Can Ed Sheeran ever go wrong? Best leprechaun ever. I say that with love.
Cheese(s) of the Weeks

Some science for all you cheese lovers out there:

Bambi Recommends: Human+ at the CCCB

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The Contemporary Culture Center of Barcelona (CCCB) currently has an exhibition going on until April titled Human+ and, if you have even the slightest interest in humanity’s future, you should go check it out.

Human+ focuses on the technological advances of humankind and projects where we may be going as a species that manipulates our natural environment. From DNA compatibility tests to genetically modified mosquitoes made to fight malaria, the exhibition walks you through the  modern day advances as well as the upcoming conceptual inventions that are right around the corner. One part focused on the idea of the “New City” and how our current consumer culture has turned the entire globe into an enormous assembly line of production, humans being just another cog in the machine.

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In terms of exhibition design, I appreciated the ominous questions and thought-provoking quotes sprawled across the walls. They are the kinds of things you ask yourself after watching any sci-fi thriller or movie about artificial intelligence. “Would you upload your brain to the internet?” Paging Johnny Depp.

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Another shocking display was the euthanasia roller coaster. Using G force and the adrenaline rush effect of a roller coaster, this structure is engineered to humanely kill its passengers by literally giving them the thrill of their lives. The G force is so intense that they pass out due to cerebral hypoxia. Sure, some say it’s an art piece but it’s a bit disturbing that this would be in an exhibition about the advancement of the species and it makes you wonder if someone out there is willing to fund its construction…or already has. This is the video that was shown alongside the model:

I’d recommend going to Dressing the Body first and then Human+ just to continue along the same theme of how we have progressed in modifying our bodies and our surroundings. The exhibition also has a series of talks and debates going on (this one seems like a winner). Check the website for more details. Don’t forget to pick up a brochure on the way out. The back of the Spanish edition doubles as a poster of this image which is now hanging on my fridge. The English version has this creepier Matrix-esque visual because anglophones be freaks yo.

Entrance is 6 Euros or free admission on Sundays from 3-8pm!

A Catalonian Frame of Reference: What People Worry About

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While being in Barcelona, I have done a lot of comparing with Beirut. It’s natural I guess, to compare your new relationship, flaws and all,  with the previous one that gripped your heart. Here I am, 8 weeks in, and the point that sticks out the most is how the typical Barcelona resident spends their energy and how it contrasts with a person living in Lebanon.

At first, I thought that residents here (and I say “residents” because not everyone who lives in Barcelona is Spanish) were blind to how good they had it. Oh, you poor thing, you’re not sure which bike rental service to sign up for. How hard life must be for you. It was resentment that was uncalled for. Their worries seemed so trivial and I thought that I was somehow better equipped for life’s curveballs because I came from a country that can’t get its act together. Sure, we are aces when it comes to back-up plans and sly maneuvering. The Lebanese know how to “bounce back and overcome adversity.” But then I realized something: you’re not supposed to spend so much of your own brainpower thinking about half the shit we think about back home and yet, we have to.

…or do we?

When I’m asked what I think about Barcelona so far, my automated response is, “It’s a lot like home except everything works.” I thought I was different from the Catalonian population because of what my daily life consists of in Beirut but, when having deeper conversations with people, I came to see that all of us have the same concerns, the same aspirations, and even the same confusion when it comes to romance and significant others. We may speak different languages but we’re not from different planets. It’s just that I come from a country that added a few rolls of parchment to my what to think about tonight while staring at my ceiling list. That does not mean that those who live here don’t have their own fair share of burdens, they just have the kind that is more of a DEFCON BEIGE than our constant VERMILLION.

This is why I left. I wanted to see how the other half lives, to see what’s missing at home as well as abroad, to see what would push me to emigrate elsewhere or make me stay. All I can say now is that being able to only think about things that are quintessentially important to my life, even something as basic as scheduling a tennis lesson before it rains, is refreshing. I wonder what it will be like to return to my scrolls of only-in-Lebanon problems.

Barcelona may not be my Beirut but, upon being away long enough to see it from a distance, I’m not sure what my Beirut has become either.

El-Tanein Diet Week #12, #13, and #14

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I think I need to come to accept that my workouts, while in Barcelona, are going to revolve around walking. I’m bunching the last THREE weeks in one post because I’m not sure how interesting things have been in terms of content for this series but I’m going to stick to the documentation. It took me so long to actually churn out weeks 12 and 13 that I might as well throw in 14 as a bonus. Hopefully, I’ll still try to get SOME form of conventional activity in before heading back to the gym…in Beirut.

Workout Tally

Walking everywhere for 21 days

Outdoor Activity

See above or below.

Fitbit Flex

Ironically enough, I’m paying attention to this wearable less and less even though it’s tracking the only activity I’m really sticking to. My steps have continued to drop though, probably due to my tourist drive starting to wane as I get more settled here as a “resident.” However, even with that, I’m still getting higher totals than I ever did in Lebanon. I keep forgetting to charge it and losing data of up to two days by the time I realize it’s dead. Why isn’t this charged via kinetic energy? Wouldn’t that make more sense?

Best Meals of the Weeks

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Week 12: Solo lunch at Tapas 24. I was done walking all over the city and very tempted to just head to McDonald’s but walked the extra 10 minutes to have a couple of tapas with a glass of cava. patatas bravas, bikini comerç, and a bomba de la Barceloneta.

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Week 13: Lemon tart from La Bascula in Born. Having the vegan in town meant discovering vegetarian Barcelona. La Bascula is a vegetarian co-op that’s housed in an old chocolate factory. It’s on Carrer de Flassaders, a little alley full of Spanish boutiques.

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Week 14: Tickets Bar. I’m not ashamed to admit that I booked a table at this place in AUGUST. I’d read about it during my Barcelona research and it was listed as a must. They open one day two months prior every day at midnight. I was so intrigued by this but I’m not one for fine dining. However, I decided that this would be my only expensive dinner out for my entire 3 months here and it turned out to be a very laid back environment. And OMG THE FOOD. I’ll let the pictures tell you. They’re vertical because Snapchat is more forgiving on my poor phone memory.
(Add me: ferroberro)

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Other Highlights

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Them body issues tho.

Having Museum Days: Sundays in Barcelona are like Beirut in that they’re labeled “family days,” everything closes, and the only thing left to do is eat and be a tourist. I’ve been spending mine in museums or random art shows since most restaurants save their tables for parties of ANYTHING MORE THAN ONE.

Bought a Polaroid Cube: Instead of splurging on a GoPro before knowing whether or not I’d really use it, I opted for the more affordable yet lower quality Polaroid Cube. Let’s see if some Bambi vlogs get made with this new toy.

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Having a Roommate: My friend has moved in with me for the month. I officially have my first roommate.

Human+: This is a new exhibition at the CCCB that’s about humans, tech, and where we’re going as a species. Very interestingly creepy.

Workout Track(s) of the Weeks


Because I’m not running, running, running. I’ve really got to though.


Because Jonas. Don’t judge.

Cheese(s) of the Weeks

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Receiving a bunch of jars of labneh from dad. Mom and vegan visited during week 13 and brought 3 kinds of goat’s labneh, marouk bread, and a couple of bags of pita. This is how Arab parents show they love you. Can someone send me tabbouli?

Here’s a dose of inspirational queso for you as well:

Exit through the Gift Shop, Go Home Broke

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These museum and attraction gift shops are going to be the end of me, especially the ones at the MACBA and CaixaForum. Not only are their interiors very purchase-inducing, but they’ve got a lovely selection of books, gadgets, and postcards. You all know how much I love postcards.

When exploring Barcelona, try to put a limit on your museum gift shop receipts. Consider this a friendly warning. I mean, I got a Tim Burton deck of cards.

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And it doesn’t end there. Inspired Gallery is another wallet trap for me that I discovered while wandering through the Gothic Quarter a few weekends back. It’s on Carrer Regomir. Yes, they have postcards too.

Happy shopping!

Barcelona, You’re Not My Beirut

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Still from Vicky Cristina Barcelona

I was told that, upon visiting Barcelona, I won’t want to come back to Beirut. I was told that I would fall in love with the city and Lebanon, with its garbage and unending toddler tantrum of a system, would not even compare to Catalonia and evening walks by Santa Maria. I will say it’s been an adventure every weekend; I’ve been investigating alleyways and losing myself in museums full of posters and sculptures I studied a few years ago. To be able to use my legs for more than just walking to my car has shown me how much I despise being at a desk for too long. It’s been enriching to be in an environment where you learn something new everyday. That, for a nerd like me, is always good. But the difference between here and Beirut? This is not home.

All people want is to find the place where they feel embedded. Maybe this feeling develops with time once you’ve created roots, once you’ve let your feet sink into the sand. Or maybe it’s already there because it’s where your parents grew up, met, and formed the life that led to you.

While binge-watching Netflix’s latest hit, Narcos, I found that not only was I improving my Spanish but I was also relating to a coke king’s link to his Colombia.  While hiding out in Panama, even though he’s got so much money he could bathe in liquid gold, the prospect of returning home is more important than all of his wealth and possible incarceration. I am aware that that is a romanticized depiction of a drug-lord but I can appreciate the sentiment.

It may be too soon to make such a declaration but I don’t feel a connection in Barcelona. Besides the professional lessons, I am grateful that it has given me the distance needed to get some focused perspective without my thoughts being punctuated with worry or distress that comes from a typical day in Lebanon. But it’s also shown me what it’s like to live in a city that is not my own, that I have no national ties to. I look for my own culture within the one that already exists here so that I can feel a sense of belonging but, even when found, I am just a visitor here.

I’ve said this before but it seems, no matter where I go, I am always looking for you, Beirut.

El-Tanein Diet #10 and #11

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I’ve decided that bunching the ETD posts into 2-week bits is better while I’m in Barcelona. Main reason being that I don’t have a lot of activity to report other than walking all over the whole city. I do plan on changing that up but I don’t want to get too repetitive and only be discussing what I’m eating. Although they come hand in hand when focusing on fitness, this is supposed to be a series about movement rather than a tribute to food.

Workout Tally

Walking my ass off for 14 days

Still can’t get myself to give up my morning walks to the office and I don’t think the rain will stop me either. It’s a 15-20 minute warm-up before I sit behind a screen for 9 hours. I’m really happy that I have this to wake me up prior and then after the day is over as well. Sedentary life at a desk can be so damaging so it’s become the highlight of my weekdays. I try to change up the route every once in a while so I can discover a new neighborhood, find another farmacia, or fit in some extra steps.

With that said, I’m still hoping to get some weekend jogs in. Since weekends are the days I get to really be Bambi the Explorer, I can’t help but deplete my energy wandering the streets looking for hidden gems. I’m trying to use the resistance tube regularly but that’s been as effective as my Duolingo Spanish lessons – meaning I’m doing it twice a week max. Catalan bread is still stalking me and now I’m crushing on its friend: bizcocho de limon (lemon cake) from Dia supermarket.

Outdoor Activity

See above or below.

Fitbit Flex

Taken from the Apple Health app because I forgot to charge my Fitbit again

Best Day. Taken from the Apple Health app because I forgot to charge my Fitbit again.

I’m doing an average of 10.5km/day when not in the office so week 10 was ~78K and week 11 was ~75K steps. Even though this is higher than my Beirut weekly stats, the totals have gone down since weeks 8 & 9 so I should get back to my old weekend numbers.

Best Meals of the Weeks

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Week 10: Bresaola with cava from El Jardi in Raval. It’s a charming tapas bar located in the gardens of old Hospital Santa Creu, around the corner from the famous La Boqueria. It was one of my first solo lunches and I didn’t mind one bit.

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Week 11: Media Pinta BrewBurger with a 1/2 pint of 5am Red Ale beer at Brewdog on Carrer de Casanova. After nachos, a burger, and brownies, my new colleagues and I played two rounds of Jenga. We defied the laws of physics and digestion.

Other Highlights

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Found Peanut Butter: I found the much smaller equivalent to Wesley’s in Barcelona: Taste of America. Got myself a jar of Jif. I prefer Skippy but it’ll do. The cashier began to explain, in Spanish, that I was buying the extra chunky variation. I blurted out a “…sorry?” even though I figured out what he was saying and he laughed,“You’re American! Never mind!” It seems I blend right in here.

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Trip up to Mount Tibidabo: We didn’t get to ride the old Tramvia Blau (blue tram) since it was a Friday. It’s only operational on weekends. That’s what I get for going to Tibidabo on my day off. BUT Tibidabo has a spectacular view of the city and you get to ride a funicular after having some gin & tonic at Mirablau bar halfway up the mountain. There’s a church and some rides at the top but the view is enough for the trip. Avoid the churros – not worth it.

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Attended my first Barca game at Camp Nou:
I’m more of a World-Cup-only football fan but it seemed wrong to not attend a game while staying in the home of FC Barcelona. With great seats thanks to friends at Fly-Foot, we got to see Barca’s win against Las Palmas with Messi’s injury in the first 10 minutes, Suarez’s two goals, and Neymar’s bad haircut. The energy in a stadium is so much better than watching behind a screen.

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Faborit for Light Lunches: So far, this is my favorite lunch spot away from the office. They’ve got a healthy salad bar, fresh juices, pastries, loyalty cards, and a green-walled terrace. I got the swing chair last time I was there! I am a child. The interior is just as warm and inviting. Did I mention it’s at the ground level of Cadafalch’s Casa Amatller? #designerd

Went Flexitarian Two Sundays in a Row: Read more about this here.

Workout Track(s) of the Weeks

Fun, hip track to trot to. Not hardcore workout material but it’s a cheerful, summery tune. And the video was shot in Barcelona.

Cheese(s) of the Weeks

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I’m in love with burrata anything. I’ve had burrata back home but I don’t know what it is about this español cheesperience. Maybe it’s the arugula or the sun-dried/seared tomatoes but I can’t get enough.

Bambi Recommends: Flax & Kale

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After being in Spain for exactly a month, I’ve realized just how much jamon and chorizo I’ve been ingesting. It’s really hard to find turkey around here and with such exquisite cold cuts, why would you want to?

Well, because my stomach can’t handle all that meat all the time. It’s heavy on the digestive system and, about a week ago, I was looking for a light clean meal somewhere. I ended up at Flax & Kale. I’ll admit that I had sent a photo of the restaurant’s storefront to my vegan sister a few days before followed by “I’m not going to go to a ‘flexitarian’ restaurant while I’m in Barcelona!” after she pleaded with me to give it a try.

Pancakes!

F&K’s Healthy Pancakes: red quinoa, soy milk, free range eggs, vanilla, olive oil, blueberry soy yogurt, blueberries, maple syrup

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The food is not only delicious but it’s also satisfying without that stuffed feeling. The fruits have been more flavorful than other restaurants that I’ve been to here possibly because of their organic produce. Their “flexitarian” menu means they’ve got 80% plant-based options but they also have oily fish and eggs on there too. There’s also a juicery.

With my love for burgers, I never thought I’d endorse a vegan restaurant regardless of my being labeled as a hipster thanks to my graphic-designer-badge. Teresa Carles, the lady behind the menu, knows how to make healthy tasty food though. I’ve had Sunday brunch there twice and I know I’ll be back again. After all, I still have to try the rhubarb and strawberry tart on their outdoor terrace.

“Dressing the Body” at Museu del Disseny de Barcelona

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“Dressing the Body” is a permanent exhibition at the Museu del Disseny de Barcelona (Design Museum of Barcelona). It’s about how people have manipulated their appearance via accessories, hairstyles, and clothing.

As someone who worked in advertising for luxury brands and hair care, a lot of our research went into desire, beauty, and self-image. Perhaps this is partially why I found this exhibition so fascinating. However, the other part of me, the science nerd, found it fascinating because it addressed how human behavior has shifted with fashion: how we react to arbitrary definitions of beauty and how our perception keeps changing over time. Our behavior has shaped how we view those around us, including ourselves. We are constantly modifying our bodies, whether it’s through padding, feathery hats, or tattoos.

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The exhibition is divided by the decades and the dominating trend of each era starting from the 16th century. It’s an eye-opener because you usually don’t think about how your clothes are also a device that you use to change your silhouette. There are 5 ways what you wear can affect your overall appearance:

  1. Increasing: adding volume to your body by inflating your lower body via structures like wooden hoop skirts or layered petticoats.
  2. Reducing: corsets and belts, anything that reduces or squeezes you into a certain mold.
  3. Elongating: adding height through heels, large hats/hairstyles, or long trains.
  4. Profiling: contouring the outline of your body through stockings or tight body hugging fabrics.
  5. Revealing: Self-explanatory. That skin tho.

    “If you alter the way the body comes across in the space around it then the body alters everything in the space that affects it.” – Hussein Chalayan, 2002

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Check out a sneak peek here. An appropriate part two of this would be an extensive cosmetic surgery exhibition over the decades. If you’re in Barcelona, visit the museum. This exhibition alone is worth the 5 Euro entrance or you can wait until Sundays when it’s free!

CaixaForum: From Cotton to Culture

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Like all major touristic cities, Barcelona’s got plenty of main attractions. The musts being Sagrada Familia, Guell, and a handful of cathedrals. I’m trying to get through the list while still attempting to discover the less commonly visited beauties.

Facing Mies van de Rohe’s German Pavilion in Montjuic is a medieval brick castle with two towers. This is CaixaForum, the cultural center of Barcelona. Although it houses exhibitions and an excellent bookshop, it used to be a textile factory in the early 1900s. Built in two years thanks to repetitive architectural patterns, the factory was dedicated to cotton production. The large windows, high ceilings, and separated pavilions helped with ventilation and created a large open workspace so workers didn’t feel trapped underground. Because it’s only made of brick and iron, there was also very little risk of fire. The flower bed skylights enabled fire brigades to reach any part of the factory but also doubled as a source of air and natural light. Besides light and space, it was the first factory to use electricity so there were no chimneys and, thus, no risk of respiratory diseases from coal and steam that previously powered looms.

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Casimir Casaramona, owner of the factory, commissioned Josep Puig i Cadafalch (pooji cadafalk), the same architect behind Casa Batllo’s overlooked neighbor, Casa-Museu Amatller. Batllo is by Gaudi who is to Catalan modernism what Beyonce was to Destiny’s Child. Imagine being in that kind of shadow posthumously.

Casa Amatller & Casa Batllo

Casa Amatller & Casa Batllo

Anyway, Cadafalch incorporated multiple elements of Catalan craftsmanship: glass-making, brick-laying, metalwork. The overall goal was to strengthen Catalan institutions and identity while adding a medieval twist and Gaudi’s trencadis technique (using broken glass). And one of Cadafalch’s signatures is the use of dragons, an emblem of the Kingdom of Aragon. You can find one over the door at the base of the Casaramona tower. Take that, Dany.

The factory closed in 1919 and was a police station for about half a century after that. As of today, it is an amalgam of Art Nouveau and industrial architecture because of the expansion on the existing structure. La Caixa Foundation, the charitable leg of La Caixa bank, stepped in to refurbish and create CaixaForum in 1997. Due to UNESCO Heritage Site rules, they were forced to expand the only way possible: by going underneath the building.

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Arata Isozaki, a Japanese architect, designed the white limestone entrance and the tree glass sculpture over the escalators that take you to the front door. The limestone allows for light to be reflected into the underbelly of the space. There’s also an abstract “garden” which is an empty rectangular room with water running under it so there’s a trickling water sound effect in a white box. It’s supposed to give the illusion that you’re in a garden. I’m not a fan of this kind of rationale when it comes to art – it makes me think Isozaki smoked all the grass that should’ve been in that garden.

Repurposing old buildings of architectural significance seems to be a theme in this city. They’ve managed to give a meaningful second life to many structures that are survivors of their historic past. There are some case where the same is happening back home but let’s hope for more past in the future.

BONUS FUN FACT: CaixaForum is located at the base of Montjuic between the trade fair precinct and the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. Both of which were designed by Cadafalch too. BOOM. Mic drop.