Residency Dispatch: Two Weeks In

Editor’s Note: This is Block Club designer Tim Staszak’s ‘s third dispatch from Barcelona, where he is working remotely for six weeks as part of Block Club’s Residency Program–an employee development initiative representative of our ongoing commitment to infuse the work we do for our clients with innovative practices, fresh methodologies, and global perspectives. Check out one of Tim’s previous dispatch here.

It’s been a little over two weeks here in Barcelona. I’ve been navigating my neighborhood and bouncing around effortlessly into different parts of the city. If you were to look at my neighborhood from above, it would look like a maze. The area I’ve taken up residence is very close to the oldest parts of Barcelona, where there is no true street grid. It’s a mix of Medieval alleyways and streets that twist and turn down narrow corridors. All the buildings are built right up against each other, giving you feeling that you’re following a small stream at the basin of a canyon. 

Alleyways

A few things that I have noticed over the past couple of weeks is that the metro system is super-efficient; I’ve never waited longer than three minutes for a subway train and the communication design for the subway system is very easy to understand and truly effective, which has made getting around very easy.

Cafe Culture

People take their time when they’re out at a cafe or restaurant. There is no rush to move you along and turn a table. In fact, when I feel like I’ve overstayed my welcome and ask for la cuenta (the bill), they ask you if you want dessert or coffee and seem genuinely disappointed that you’re leaving. 

Tapas!

Nobody drinks water, at least that’s what I tell myself. At every outdoor table I pass, people are either having a small beer called a caña, a glass of Spanish sparkling wine called cava, a vermouth if it’s the early afternoon, wine, or coffee. Never water. There is no shortage of jamón. I would guess that no matter where I’ve been in this city I am always within 20 feet of a plate of freshly carved jamón ibérico at all times. It’s on every menu and most restaurants have several legs hanging from the rafters.

Modernisme tilework, restaurants, doorways, and storefronts

Catalan Modernisme

The Modernisme architecture and design style is mindblowing. It’s informed by nature and is very specific to the Catalan culture. There doesn’t seem to be a hard edge to it. It’s all curves, colors, and light. In other parts of Europe and in the U.S. we’d probably refer to this as the Art Nouveau. Here it is called Modernisme. Walking down the street you could pass a corner store that’s completely covered in colorful mosaic tile, curving up archways and stone pillars and creating the signage of the store or restaurant. It’s not only the tile work but some store or restaurant fronts are also elegantly carved from wood into smooth curved shapes and patterns commonly found in the Modernisme tradition. And if that isn’t enough Modernisme, many of the parks, buildings and the still unfinished yet completely stunning Sagrada Familia cathedral are designed in this style.

Sagrada Familia
Park Güell

I have three more weeks left and there is still so much to see and do. Chao!