JWE 01 - 09 - 2010

Roughly halfway into our trek through Spain, we've observed and experienced Madrid (briefly), Cordoba, and Seville. Each of these cities has offered a unique and rich set of planning and design principles or ideas to be considered for possible adaptation into our hometown project designs. The Plaza Mayor in Madrid provided a good example of how the built environment around a public plaza can dictate the feel of the space. The large rectangular (and somewhat bare) space is almost completely walled in by the buildings around it with a few corridor like openings "punched out" of the built mass to allow pedestrian traffic to flow in and out of the enclosed and separated public gathering space. In contrast, one of the main downtown pedestrian squares in Cordoba is surrounded by buildings that meet the square with rounded, slender corners, making the rest of the city more visually accessible. Jumping down in scale, the courtyard outside of the mosque in Cordoba, uses a thin irrigating ring of water to separate a beautiful fountain surrounded by orange trees from the mosque itself. It is one of the most beautiful and peaceful places I've ever experienced. This idea could also be altered to not only provided a sustainability aspect but to also offer a "white noise" sound barrier of water to separate a similar personal but open public space from its surrounding context. My hometown design will also explore how a pedestrian walkway/bikeway interacts with a a pond. In Cordoba, there is a fantastic tiered pathway that provides multiple paths as well as seating that addresses the river front. It also uses these tiers to break up a large mass of green space into smaller spaces, creating multiple spaces for people to inhabit. These principles could be applied to the design as well. Zooming back out to a city planning scale, Madrid offered an example of how street organization can create opportunities for public spaces. The triangular grid that can be found in many parts of Madrid's maze of streets combined with the tendency for buildings in this area to be pushed back to the "base" of these triangular spaces allows room for outdoor spaces to be created at the point where these streets intersect. Narrative is an important aspect of the design project as well, and Seville offered several examples of beautiful use of it. The expo building combines painting, sculpture, and architecture to provide a narrative to the culture of Seville and Spain. The Cathedral in Seville is another powerful example of this, as every inch of the massive structure is designed with stunning imagery and symbolic meaning. For example, depictions of the bible crafted in rich South American mahogany cover the choir enclave as well as the alter.

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