Saturday, April 30, 2011

More Videos:

This is my video about the differences in studying architecture at Clemson University and studying in Barcelona.

This is another small video about the slow paced lifestyle of living in Barcelona and the novelty of living in a metropolitan city with a small town paced life.


Well, I'm back in the States. Feels so strange to be back in a place that was supposed to be so familiar and now seems completely different. I guess it's not the place, maybe it's a little of me that's different. Anyway, I've been trying to upload my videos that I made this week, but I've been having technical difficulties and such so last night I separated myself from the frustration and am trying again this morning, a little late but better late than never.
I've uploaded them to my youtube account and here's a link to the first one:

"I miss butter"

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Professional Issue Video

When it comes to architecture in Spain, it's a safe haven for creative minds. Building codes that typically restrict architects' ideas but here in Europe, architecture flourishes within a vibrancy only able to exist in a world without strict codes. Just like the professional world differs, the academic atmosphere is very different here in Espanya. At home, we are bombarded with talk of ''studio culture'' you know the type of culture that consists of endless days that turn into nights that turn into days again pouring over drawings and models in the studio with your classmates, eating copious amonts of fast food and pouring coffee into our systems. Here, my experience has been a little different; for starters the studio closes, that's right  closes, at 9 pm and never even opens up on weekends. What does that mean for me? No all-nighters or wasted sunny Saturday afternoons in studio! For my professional issues video, I've decided to expand upon these differences and similiarities to analyze if studio culture is universal for all architecture students.
Here's the link to my prezi mind mapping if you have any ideas

Public Issues video

It may sound a little redundant but what Spain has  really enamored me with in a cultural sense is that laid back lifestyle here. Everyone's happiness and leisurely state of mind is contagious. It's a refreshing energy here that's seems to exude healthiness making such a stark contrast to the rigorously fast paced American lifestyle. To organize my thoughts I've put together a generalized prezi to get my mind going in the right direction for the video documenting these ideas.

Personal VIdeo Idea..

It finally occurred to me, what I wanted to focus on for my personal video documenting Barcelona.
My professional and public issues have a lot of "me" in them and to be honest, they are the subjects that I'm truly interested in and have captured the essence of my Catalan experience here but there is one very important life aspect that I haven't mentioned in my previous blogs- that is Spain's obsession with olives.
Olives are everywhere here! And if they're not olives, it's olive oils! They put it on everything! I must say, this absolutely thrilled me when I first got here, because its use is so abundant when back home it's outrageously expensive and never used but after 4 months now of pouring olive oil into my body I feel like it's oozing out my pores so I decided to base one of my videos on it.
To brainstorm how I will organize the video I made a little prezi, mostly because it's fun, but decided to share it with you guys if you were at all interested or more importantly had any ideas to make it more thorough or even just more entertaining. :)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Plan of Attack

According to what I now understand is that I will be making tres videos to help document my experiences this semseter; the content varies from personal to professional to public. So essentially, I'm beginning planning the easiest the personal engagement. I'm thinking that the personal and professional might actually make a nice transition since I'm thinking of focusing on my personal experiences with the slow, relaxed social schedule of Spain from the way they casually indulge in tapas and sangria for hours to the oh so-flexible-it-is-barely-there time schedule of Spaniards lives. This laid back schedule contrasts sharply with the go-go-go mentality of the average American who values hard unflagging work. This feeds in nicely with the professional aspect that I've noticed in the Spanish way of design. To relate to architecture, one could compare the 3 projects Clemson students tend to do in a semester with the 1 project Spanish students complete in a semester. In Spain, the world of design is very detailed but doesn't seem to have the same rigorous timetable that it does in America, the work comes on a much less forced schedule which results in very different types of work. I really liked Bethany's video of her the ''au pair experience'' she had and found the video very interesting because it seemed very personal and yet professionally informative. I want to acheive the same kind of duality in my video.
I don't know I'll have to continue to develop these ideas but that is just what initially came to mind. I also haven't chosen a social or political issue to explore in the final video either. Over the next week or so I'll be working to better organize my thoughts and methods for conveying them in a storyboard.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Picture>1000 words

Photography continues be an incredibly influential art, it can capture the spirit of a person, an event. It can provoke emotion in a way that no other art can, it can bear a vivid truth that haunts us or inspires us or entertains us in a very special way. Now I am not attempting to make grandios gestures through my photographs, I'm simply trying to capture the spirit of the moment that I'm experiencing at the time. Here in a whole new world, I'm perpetually provoked to capture these moments through an obscene amount of photographs- I'm obviously not succeeding very well in my attempt to acheive quality over quantity here- , some good some not so successful. But it's true that whether I'm choosing them consciously or not, certain ''tropos'', aka rhetorical means, are present in these photos that help tell the story I choose.
This first image of Plaza Majorca in Madrid, I included people sitting at an outdoor restaurant in the frame but conveniently excluded the annoying SpiderMan street buskar off to the left. This helps tell a very particular story of a more traditional Spain, a Spain where traditions of spending long afternoons eating and drinking in the public squares alive, and strategically excludes the story of the Spain that lures obnoxious tourist acts like the over weight Spider Man wanna-be. I wanted to think of Madrid in this traditional sense because it was definitely a city of tradition in my experience, hence the sepia tone.
One more example of how I tried to use a little rhetoric is in this photograph of the Gard D'Oriente in Lisbon. This picture's angle really helps to capture the dynamic lines of the train station. It is a remarkable piece of architecture with dynamicism and movement unlike anything I've seen so to emphasize this even more so I attempted to  capture the spirit of the building at a lower angle running down the facade.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Some photos thus far

Normally when I travel, I get a little camera happy and take Pat's rule of  ''taking multiple shots'' a little too extremely and end up with hundreds of photos that a. stink and b. I never look at again. Also, I've noticed that once I get behind a camera, I'm separating myself from the experience; so my goal for my travels this time around is to focus on quality instead of quantity. I've collected a few of my favorites thus far...
This first one was taken in Lisbon, along the beach in front of  Torres de Belem. The Tower is offset a little which creates a little more dramatic feel to the setting sun behind.

The next photo is a detail of a graffiti wall in Barcelona. Who knew John Wayne had made it all the way over to Spain?
The next one is a panoramic view of the bay outside the main plaza in Lisbon, my favorite spot in the city. It was gorgeous to walk down the steps literally into the sea and have the water enter the plaza. This photo is an example of using a wideframe to acheive a panoramic view.

The last picture, is of a really interesting sculpture suspending from a bridge in Madrid. I thought it to be an exception of Pat's rule, since he said he had some really successful exceptions, it was shot looking straight ahead and is situated in the center of the photo.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I'm loving it...

McDonald’s what could be more universal than the typical American hamburger chain restaurant? Well judging by the differences in McDonalds’ restaurants around the world that I’ve witnessed, maybe this image of McDonalds isn’t as universal as I thought. Sure the globe is scattered with McD’s on every other corner, on just about every continent, BUT let’s be sure to realize that their menu, their d├ęcor, even their websites differ strongly. It might be one of reasons for their global successes, this ability to adapt and appeal to a multiplicity of cultures.
Although I have not participated in the Spanish McDonalds experience, several years ago I made the mistake of ordering from a McD’s in Paris, France. The portions, the seasoning, the cheese, the condiments, the price, even the napkins had been altered to fit the French’s tastes and lifestyle. Now that I’m in Spain, I checked out the Spanish website for McDonalds and just as I expected, it definitely appeals differently than the American website.
The audience of the American website seems to be mid to lower working class citizens, people who are looking for a filling, satisfying, all-American meal, on a blue-collar budget. However, the audience of the Spanish website seems to be a more sleek, slightly more sophisticated audience evidenced by the clean lines and transitioning of images in their website.
The American website is dripping with pathos that evokes hunger, it’s front page cries ‘’seize the bold’’ complete with strong large graphics that bluntly grabs hold of the audience’s stomach and teases their taste buds. The Spanish website has a much more subdued approach to appealing to their audience, this includes clean sophisticate graphics that feature natural elements, like tree branches, leaves, and subtle rain music. This difference alludes to a different audience, an audience that’s more concerned with the process of the construction of the meal versus the American audience that is enraptured by the idea of instant deliciousness of a hearty burger.

The ethos, the relationship between the speaker and the audience, is verified in the American logo and slogan ‘’I’m loving it’’. This represents a company that we as Americans have grown to trust and recognize immediately because of its presence over the generations. We’ve developed an almost blind sense of trust in the company whereas the Spanish audience has not yet because it is a more recent relationship. Their website develops a relationship by featuring a young McDonalds’ worker in the background of their front page. The worker looks happy, hard working, and friendly which promises the audience the same sense of service. The Spanish website also has more readily available links to nutritional facts and about where the ingredients come from, this kind of information develops a sense of trust between the consumers and producers.
A small cultural side note that I have noticed that may only be slightly relevant rhetorically... In the U.S., it’s quite common to run into a fast food restaurant, like McDonald’s to use the restroom. No one asks or has ever seemed offended whether I make a purchase or not. However, any European fast food restaurant, even the McDonald’s in Barcelona, has strong rules against using their facilities unless you are a customer. I’ve even been to a McDonald’s that had a bathroom security woman who personally handed customers necessary toiletries and ensured that only paying customers used the restroom. I think that this can refer to the more formal atmosphere that even restaurants such as McDonald’s personify in a European context. This formality is even apparent in the website’s graphic quality compared to their more casual atmosphere and graphic representation of the American website. Once again, the contrast of these atmospheres reflects the cultural context of the restaurant.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Is Google Making us Stupid?

Friedrich Nietzsche once said that the ''writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.'' For me, this is evident not in writing but in graphics. For architecture studios we are constantly juggling digital medium, like 3D modeling softwares, Adobe Illustrator,  or Photoshop,  with physical or analogue medium, drawing, sculpting, or building. It is not only the end result that differs between the two  methods, but the process and form of thinking. Creating and thinking digitally will result in a different concept and or realization of the object than if it was created in a physical sense. I can easily relate this to Nietzsche's experience of changing writing styles to a more ''staccato'' form when he began using a typewriter instead of pen and paper. The medium that one creates in dictates the thought. 
So when approaching a new world where internet is becoming our primary medium, our thought changes respectively. The way in which our mind functions adapts to the new medium, and in a way the machine changes us. From personal experience in studio, it is difficult to bridge the gap between the previous way of thinking and the new, it's an exhausting process that sometimes seems irrelevant. Why should we even bother keeping the old way of thinking if we are forced through evolution of society to think in an entirely new way   '' medium dictates the method''? It's important to struggle between the two worlds, to evolve our thinking while maintaing the advantages of previous methodologies. Yes, I agree that we are constantly modifying ourselves as technology changes, but I don't agree that we are losing ourselves in the machine. We are adding new dimensions to our minds as we expand our concept of thinking, creating, being. We don't ''lose'' a technology/thinking methodology in the shadows of its successor.
It is easy to become confused today in the labryinth of ever-changing technology - for example I still am struggling with the concept of phones becoming our computers and computers becoming our phones thanks to Apple- but it's important that we understand that we are the creators of our virtual World. Its thoughts, are our own. Google doesn't necessarily ''think'' for us, it enables us to access others' thinking in order to build upon it, expand it, evolve it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I. Dentify. Me.

The idea that by creating an ‘’other’’ we identify ourselves is an idea that is slowly starting to ring true here for me in Barcelona. By experiencing others’ norms, from their food to their sleep schedule, I’m starting to create my own more complex identity here than ever before. It’s as if to say, I may not be sure what I am but I can analyze myself by what I am not. Here there are things that I could easily see myself adapting to, changing my identity in a way, such as being in an urban area where there are various cultures all around with a variety of foods and recreation. On the other hand, there are things I just can't identify with and therefore become my ''otherings'' like the lack of maple syrup and the SUPER late nights characteristic of Spaniards. 
Barbecque mutton, farming, campfires, and even store closing hours before 8p are factors of my culture that would have to be explained to anyone coming to my hometown. At home, by simply mispronouncing Louisville as ''Louis-ville'' one can be singled out as a foreigner. Here all I have to do is pronounce the second s on ''estas'' and they instantly clarify any lingering doubts, that I'm obviously not a native speaker. Everything about one's culture from the names of places and things, to the condiments they choose to flavor their meat with forms an identity. My identity, I'm slowly second guessing, and constantly regenerating as I learn how I can change, how I'm different, and truly by discovering my own truths about myself by juxtaposing it with a differing identity.
After a month of being here, it is just now dawning on me that by walking into a restaurant and speaking to my friends in English, I am singled out- I am the ''different'' one- not the cashier or other customers speaking Spanish and/or Catalan. Upon arriving here, I was locked out of my apartment and wasn't able to contact anyone in my program. I was lost in a strange city in a strange country, but the most bewildering factor was when I walked into a cafe asking for help and the lady said to me, '' nobody will help you because nobody understands you''. Growing up in a small town in Kentucky and going to college in rural South Carolina, I have never experienced feeling like such a minority and outsider. It seems like such a small happening but for me, it was life changing to understand what it's like to not be the ''norm'' and truly made me second guess all of my ''norms'' and my normative culture.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Cultural ''Literacy''

To be honest, the definition of ''cultural literacy'' is still eluding me. For class I watched 3 videos, read a few documents, and checked out a few different websites to attempt to clarify this definition. To me, it seems this literacy, is too expansive to limit its factors to the constraints of literature or even language. To be culturally literate is to have understanding of the layers of a society's beliefs of life, family, identity, music, religion, love, and so much more. I would say no one could fully understand me simply by the comprehension of my personal idioms and cultural references, so I have no intention of claiming to be culturally literate of another person's lifestyle until I have found a kind of deeper understanding.
I looked at Geerte-Hofestede's indices of Spain, that claimed to explain the culture through a graph of their ''cultural differences'' and personally I didn't find it applicable to the people of Spain. Particularly, here in a country that has so many layers of history, the Spaniards have had to change and adapt constantly and therefore have layers of adaptation buried in their ''culture''.  I don't believe that by graphing such factors as their ''individualism'' level and ''masculinity'' level could ever aide me in becoming more literate of their ever-changing culture.
By being here and experiencing their food, language, religion, recreation, and else in between is the only way one could ever attempt to become literate with another's culture. I don't think that after 4 months I will have become fully culturally literate but hopefully I'll have a closer understanding of the people here and perhaps I'll have a less murky definiton of what it means to be ''culturally literate''.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Setting Foot

So it's day numero 21 here in Barcelona and I'm finally starting to feel like I'm not just a visitor anymore. Yesterday I took the metro around the city by myself AND found exactly the place I was looking for- a small feat you might think but for me it was a huge step. I'm steadily gaining confidence in the city and subsequently in myself here in Spain. Someone asked for directions while on the metro and I amazingly knew exactly how to guide them. It's these small accomplishments that make me feel as if Barcelona is beginning to welcome me in as one of its own and I'm welcoming Barca as a home. It's as if we've put aside our differences and finally begun to appreciate one another- or maybe it's just that I've begun to find the language of Barcelona in its quaint corners and winding crevaces that allows me to understand its true beauty more deeply. Of course when I say ''language'' I am not referring to Catalan or Spanish- improving my Spanglish is a feat that will take much longer than 21 days to conquer.

Friday, January 21, 2011

REsizing parks

The other day a group of us went to Parc Guell here in Barcelona, Gaudi's famous parks. It might be one of my favorite places in the city, not because of the landscape persay but the actual design of the park seems to make the area's semi-sparse landscape come to life. Somehow, in this place, I felt on the border between urban and rural life. The park's scale encompasses the visitor but because it doesn't try to ignore or block out the city instead it celebrates and frames, one has this strange deja vu of Barca. It's almost dreamlike being in Gaudi's Never never land that eludes to the urban liveliness below.
Today we went to Montserrat, an escape roughly an hour outside Barca, which was absolutely breathtaking. In contrast to Parc Guell, there's no glamorizing the city- only the pure natural scenery. Which I hate to sound cheesy here, but just for this once it might be necessary- is undenyingly spiritual. I feel like I reall only touched the surface of what this mountain really has to offer and feel like I should go back sometime; but not until I have fully appreciated the city and therefore can fully appreciate being away from it haha
As an assignment for class I'm supposed to practice resizing images, so I figure I'll post a shot I took while in Parc Guell a few days ago.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Online Communities

Recently, I made this blog for not only myself but for a course culture awareness course in school. I'm really excited about it but unfortunately the connectivity to some of the school's websites from here are making it a bit difficult to see everything but since I figured out the majority of it.. herego assignment numero dos.
I was looking at a map of online communities by Randall Munroe last night and was ABSOLUTELY stunned at how big Farmville actually is. I mean I just recently grasped the idea that Facebook has connected more than  500 million people across the globe and Farmville has over 7 million people play it a day!
Although I can proudly say I am not one of those 7 million people harvesting virtual brussel sprouts a day, I definitely use my facebook account and Skype account daily to stay in touch with my friends and family back home and new friends here in Spain. It never fails to amaze me how small of a world we must live in to be able to have a face-to-face conversation while thousands of miles away.
I guess it's only human nature to reach out to others and seek companionship so it really shouldn't come as such a surpise that millions of people religiously follow others' day-to-day grocery store runs and lunch dates on Twitter  but  the online communities have emphasized this nature to an extreme. And it's only going to get more prolific.

Here's the link to the map that amazed me;

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hello World

Hello World, I guess I'm starting this blog to attempt to capture my experiences studying abroad over the next 4 months... doubtful since I am anything but eloquent and most certainly not very blog-saavy but I'll do my best. I'm an architecture student at Clemson University and currently studying the wonderful world of architecture in none other than Barcelona, which I would argue is the world's best setting to do so in. I arrived here last week with only my computer, toothbrush, and broken Spanglish- a language developed from my knowledge of  Mexican restaurants and Speedy Gonzalez. A week into the 4 month stay here and I'm already adjusting quite well thanks to IKEA and friendly Spaniards who try to develop my Spanglish vocab.
Oh I guess I should quickly explain that I am not an amputee victim and actually the title of my blog is a very nerdy reference to J.R. Tolkein's Bilbo who so famously told Frodo,
 '' It's a dangerous business going out your door. You step  onto the road and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to..''
It seemed strangely appropriate after wallking into a bar yesterday around lunchtime on Port Vell and seeing The Lord of the Rings playing on TV....