Thursday, September 27, 2018

Agbar Tower in Barcelona

In Barcelona's new tech district near Placa de les Glories Catalanes in the Poblenou neighborhood is the stunning skyscraper, Agbar Tower which is named after its owners.   This enormous bullet-shaped building has become one of the symbols of contemporary Barcelona with it glass-tiled facade.
To the left of Agbar Tower is the Museu del Disseny.  Completed in 2014 and located in a neo-Brutalist building affectionately nicknamed "The Stapler," Barcelona's new design museum brought four collections together under one roof, thus creating a collection that is quite stunning. 
The building was originally owned by the multi-national group the Sociedad General de Aguas de Barcelona (Agbar), a Spanish company dedicated to services, distribution and treatment of water, which has its corporate headquarters in the building.  Agbar Tower was purchase for 165 million Euros in 2010 by the investment group, Azurelau.  By 2017, Merlin Properties real estate group bought the property and the name was changed to Torre Glories after the adjacent square.
Agbar Tower was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel.  Construction began in 1999 and was completed six years later in 2004.  Inspiration for the design came from many places in Spain.  The shape of the building came from Montserrat Mountain's smooth cliffs and Antonio Guadi's Sagrada Família's bell towers.  The  phallic shape of the building has earned it many nicknames.  One being "El Supositori", the suppository. 
Thirty-eight stories high, it stands 144 meters tall (468 feet) with several levels underground making it the third tallest building in Barcelona.  The cost, 133 million Euros to build.  It has an oval, almost circular base with an open-air, spacious interior with no pillars.  The inner wall layers that cover the concrete building is made of polished aluminum. The outer shell consists of 60,000 different-colored glass (40 colors to be exaxct) louvers for the 4,400 widows that can be tilted at different angles creating an iridescent glow.  The menagerie of the colored glass tiles came from Guadi's creative mix of his tiles in his buildings.  The color scheme graduates from the warmer reddish tones up to the cooler, midnight blues and whites at the top. 
In the evenings, the tower really comes alive at it is lit up with 4,500 LED lights that are able to produce over 16 million different colors across the entire facade.
Nouvel used solar power and groundwater to reduce energy consumption along with   exterior temperature sensors that regulate the opening and closing of the glass sheets.
Children jumping from one colored block to another.  Again, the color scheme complimenting the building's facade.  The tower has become a popular gathering place for residents and tourist on New Years Eve.
The view of the city with the Agbar Tower in the skyline from the rooftop of the Santa Maria del Mar Church.
The view from the top floor at the Museu del Disseny.  Both of these breathtaking buildings and a visit to the Santa Maria del Mar Church will be part of my itinerary for my Jewels of Northern Spain tour in September of 2019.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Barcelona and Bilbao came to life through Dan Brown's latest novel, Origin!

Take a journey through Bilbao and Barcelona when you read Dan Brown's latest novel, Origin, then join me in person for my  
Jewels of Northern Spain tour,
September 9 - 22, 2019. 
Origin is a very interesting read, that is hard to put down, that takes you to many of the places where I will be taking you.  It starts at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Brown's main character in the book, Robert Langdon, describes the Guggenheim as "an alien hallucination." 
Designed by architect, Frank Gehry, the museum opened in the fall of 1997.  It was a rare feat, for it was constructed on time and on budget.  Covered in glass, titanium and limestone, the building's curves seem to be almost random. 
The main entrance to the museum, where we will not have to wait in line, for I will have purchased our tickets way in advance.
The Fog Sculpture by Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya.  Unique in that the "sculpture" is never the same, the fog materializing and dissipating and continuously changing due to the daily weather patterns. 
It is a wild effect,
creating an almost eerie atmosphere.
 The interior is awe inspiring

 with the white pillars flaring up 200 feet towards the sky into a sea of glass and metal grids
 all connected by walkways and balconies.
In the atrium area, off to one side, is the phenomenal installation by Jenny Holzer titled Installation For Bilbao.
There are nine, forty foot tall linear panels eliminated by LED lights transmitting quotes scrolling upwards in Basque, English and Spanish about the tragedy of AIDS and the turmoil and agony of those left behind.
It's a very powerful installation and those that were interacting around the installation were totally mesmerized. 
Entering the large catacomb of a room, you encounter eight weathered steel sculptures by American artist, Richard Serra.  You can really get an idea of the massive scale these sculptures are by the scale of the people and the room.
The sculptures vary in height from 12 to 14 feet tall and weigh 44 to 276 tons!  They are all self supported.  I love how these sculptures are described in Brown's book, "If you imagine a dollar bill that you curl around a pencil, once you remove the pencil, your coiled bill can stand quite happily on its own edge, supported by it own geometry."  Oh, so true.
Torqued Spiral draws Langdon into its interior where the mysteries to why he is here start to unravel, a beginning of a journey to Barcelona in search of answers...
Entering these sculptures is a moving experience.  But not if your claustrophobic.  The above, titled The Snake, consists of two curving tunnels, side by side, over a hundred feet long.  If one whispers at one end, it can be heard at the other end.
Commonly known as La Salve Bridge, its official name is the ‘Prince and Princess of Spain Bridge’.   Salve comes from folk lore legends of sailors returning home on the river from the sea saying prayers of thanks for their safe return to their families and home.
Constructed of green concrete, it was the first cable-stayed system bridge built in Spain and one of the few with a steel deck.  Built in the early 1970's, it now has become part of the Guggenheim.
On the tenth anniversary of the Museum, a great red gate shaped like the letter "H" called the Red Arc was installed by the French artist Daniel Buren.   As Langdon departs Bilbao via the Nervion River, this is where we will enter the city, over the bridge to check into our hotel.  And only a half block away is where we will have a delightful gourmet lunch after spending the morning at the museum.
Red Bull sponsors annual diving competitions all over the world at various water sights and in 2015, they were held in Bilbao where the divers dove into the Nervion River!  Len and I missed it by just a few days!
Like Langdon, we will spend time in Barcelona.  But our visit will certainly be much more enjoyable.  A morning at Antonio Gaudi's Parc Guell with its randomly curving 
mosaic-lined benches.
This area was originally designed to be a market with its hefty columns that supports the benches and walkways above.
Langdon takes us to Casa Mitla, one of Gaudi's beautiful creations.  Nicknamed La Pedrera, this nine story building certainly is like a "stone quarry" with its sculptured, tiered balconies.
Pere Mila and his wife lived in the large main apartment and rented out the other twenty flats.  Just across from our hotel, at Passeig de Gracia 92, it is one of the most desired addresses in all of Barcelona, if not Spain.
The chimney tops look like aliens.  The organic forms are like they are alive.  
Gaudi once wrote: "Nothing is invented, for it's written in nature first.  Originality consists of returning to the origin."  Hence, the name of Brown's book...
We will be right in the center of L'Eixample (meaning enlargement) district.  The large scale improvements were made to the city by extending the city limits into the surrounding neighborhoods to the north.  The planned neighborhoods were never designed to the pave the way for some of Barcelona’s distinctive 20th century architecture, wide streets with shaved corners.  An exquisite area with lovely shops, gourmet dining and luxurious hotels.
Casa Batllo, one of my favorite houses of Gaudi, is really phenomenal and only a block from our hotel!  It was an existing building that textile industrialist, Josep Batllo', commissioned Gaudi to remodel. Construction began in 1904 and was completed in 1906.  The facade refers to Catalonia's Middle Ages.  The scaly roof line represents the Dragon of Evil impaled on St. George's cross. 
Batllo's residence was the largest apartment in the building that had an impressive "noble floor."  It was a large gallery with balconies that extended beyond the facade of the building with stone columns in shapes of skulls and bones representing the dragon's victims.  This was an area to see and be seen!
You must watch the incredible video of how his house comes to life, La Casa Batlo de Gaudi en Barcelona:
I never tire of watching this!
Where Langdon spends an harrowing evening at Gaudi's, Sagrada Familia (the Basilica of the Holy Family), we will enjoy a very informative guided tour one morning.  Sitting on an entire city block, construction started in 1882 and the work continues today with hopes of completion in 2026, making it the tallest church in the world at 560 feet.  Funds for the construction have all been from private donations!
The church consists of three completely different facades; the Nativity , the Passion and the Glory.
But it is the interior that is beyond breathtaking. 
The stone columns inspired by the Santa Maria del Mar church (which we will visit) climb 200 hundred feet up into the air to the geometric vaulted ceiling.  Gaudi referred to the columns and ceiling as the "vaulted forest."
Landgon was in awe of the church's main entrance, a Wall of Codes.  A door of burnished metal, the three-dimensional text covers the entire door with no spaces between the words in which reads a description of Christ's Passion in Catalan.
So dramatic!
Reflection of part of the Sagrada Familia on the mirrored facade of the gift shop.
Langdon finds clues to the mysteries through Miro's drawings.
One afternoon we will tour the Miro Foundacion.
Langdon did fly over the Palace of Pedrables in a helicopter which led him to other clues.  A gorgeous palace (now closed) that once housed a phenomenal ceramic and textile collection.  Now those two collections have joined the design and graphic arts collection in the new Museu del Disseny in Barcelona.  A Museum that is also on my itinerary (and read about it on my Blog - Post dated September 14, 2018)

Origin is an exciting read and I highly recommend it, especially if you plan on joining me on my Jewels of Northern Spain tour in September of 2019.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Grilled Peach and Onion Salad with Spicy Candied Bacon

With all the delicious Palisade Peaches we are able to buy right now, I am all over eating and using peaches in a variety of recipes.  This just happens to be one of my favorites.

        Bibb lettuce, torn into pieces
1      large onion, preferable Vidalia, cut into 3/4" slabs 
3     large peaches, cut into 2" wedges (I prefer to peel my peaches)
       Olive oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or less if you can not handle the heat)
1      lb. thick cut bacon

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
    2 tablespoons mint, chopped
    2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
    2 tablespoons chives, chopped
    1 teaspoon vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Whisk the above ingredients together and refrigerate.  A very light dressing that is a treat to use on other salads too.

Line a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper, overhanging the edges.  Line with the strips of bacon.  Mix the brown sugar and cayenne pepper together and sprinkle on the bacon evenly.  Bake in a 325 oven for about 25 minutes or until caramelized and crisp.  Remove from oven, drain grease and blot bacon with a paper towel to remove any additional grease.  When cool, cut into 2" strips.  

Separate the onion into rings and toss in a little olive oil to cover.  In a separate bowl, toss the peaches in a little olive oil to cover.  On a medium/hot grill, grill onions, turning occasionally, until softened and browned around the edges, about 10 minutes.  
Grill the peaches for about 2 minutes or until they have some grill marks.

In a large bowl, add the bibb lettuce, onions and peaches and toss with the dressing.  Sprinkle the bacon pieces on top, or if you prefer, toss the bacon into the salad.

Serve immediately.



Friday, September 14, 2018

Museu del Disseny in Barcelona

The Museu del Disseny de Barcelona right off the Placa de les Glòries was completed in 2014 and located in a neo-Brutalist building affectionately nicknamed "Grapedora", the Stapler.  I love "grapedora" - exactly what the stapler does!  The building to the right is the Agbar Tower, see my post dated September  .
Barcelona's new design museum brought 4 local design archives under one roof, making it pretty expansive as it goes for design collections.   Comprising of over 70,000 pieces from the city's ceramics, textiles decorative arts and graphic arts. 
These pieces from the fourth century AD to the present which include internationally-famed collections of medieval fabrics, sixteenth-century Catalan enamelled glass and ceramics to to mention a few.   And there is an additional area solely dedicated to special exhibitions.
The mechanical to the escalators are pretty cool with its glass panels exposing the interior workings of the escalator.
 A pleasant yellow adorned the walls.
I like that the MBM Architects kept the facade of the building simple, using only one material verses some of the building that I see in the states with numerous (way too many) surface materials of different colors and textures.  Construction began in 2009 and was completed in 2013 for the opening in 2014.
"Combined toilet and washbasin" by Gabriele and Oscar Buratti.  The water is filtered from the sink and reuses it in the toilet.  2009.
The Rocking Stool with the blue seat by Ana Mir is made of galvanized steel and polypropylene.
I first encountered this slick design of a sink and toilet combination at Cornelia and Company in Barcelona in 2011.   This very attractive store was like Spain's version of a Dean and DeLucca.  Unfortunately it has been closed for some time.
A versatile sideboard made of Sycamore wood that has starred in many films designed by Antoni Casadesus.  1989.
More designs of the 20th century.
The butterfly chair, also known as a BKF chair or Hardoy chair, is a style of chair featuring a tubular frame and a large sling hung from the frame's highest points, creating a suspended seat. The frame of the chair is generally painted black. The sling was originally leather but  today it is mostly made out of canvas.

These Butterfly Chairs were originally my parents (the canvas covers are new) and they currently live on my patio. They are at least 64 years old. Truly one of the top icons of modern international design!
Extraordinaries is a collection of ceramics, furniture, glassware and other pieces from the 3rd to the 20th century.

Flooring tiles from the 1500's.

Gorgeous ceramic plate from the mid 1450's monogrammed with IHS (Jesus) in the center.

I would love to have all of these plates in my pantry!
Such unique enameled glassware painted by Xavier Nogues and Ricard Crespo, Cataluyna, 1924.
Xavier Nogués i Casas, Barcelona 1873 - 1940, was a Catalan painter, draftsman and engraver.  His work in Noucentisme, is a satirical humor and where he expresses best is in his drawings and his famous cartoons which he clearly expressed with his figures on the glasses.
More work by Nogues, Ceramic tiles from Restaurante Can Culleretes, Barcelona, 1923.

The Museums textile collection is remarkable with it history from the 16th century up to modern day.  The collections include Coptic, Hispano-Arab, Gothic and Renaissance fabrics along with embroidery and lacework.  There is approximately five hundred pieces of jewelry that were made and produced in Spain.
The body was set free by the French Revolution, when Napoleon ordered the suppression of the symbols of aristocracy such items as corsets, paniers, breeches and heeled shoes.
I love the collection of mannequins. 
Such stylish dresses of the 1920's and 1930's.
Gorgeous dress made of silk taffeta and bambula embroidered with beads.
Pretty mod and elegant!  On display is a quote by Charles Dickens which I adore. " But fashions are like human beings.  They come in, nobody knows when, why, or how; they go out, nobody knows when, why, or how.  Everything is like life, in my opinion, if you look at it in that point of view.
The graphic arts collection, located on the top floor,  displays a significant selections of typography as well as prints that include posters, packaging, binders and labels.  Such printers include Elzeviriana, Bobes, Seix Barral, Tobella and Naips Comas (makers of playing cards).
Very 1970's.
Being a lover of horses, I was attracted to this poster.
Great graphics.  Come to Spain!   And join me on my Jewels of Northern Spain tour in September of 2019.