Posts Tagged ‘Michelle Osburn Renn’

I finished yesterday’s post with the question of what was to be learned from Gaudi’s unfinished work at the Sagrada Familia Church.First of all, we do not have to be the first designer to be the best designer. Particularly in the world of interiors, we are often dealing with elements that were started or built by someone else. When Gaudi took over, the Sagrada’s crypt was almost entirely completed in a neo-gothic style that was very popular at the time. As the new architect, Gaudi did not throw his hands in the air and insist that it all be torn down. He found a way to blend and morph this existing neo-gothic base into a structure that was entirely his own. He found an inventive way to improve on the design by building a “moat” around the top of the crypt that would let in light and keep the area from feeling like a dark underground space. As designers we will rarely have a clean slate to deal with, but that does not mean that we have to curb our creativity or concede to just “live with it”. Most would agree that addressing an existing condition will likely inspire our best ideas.

Even though Gaudi worked with the existing crypt, by 1890 he had completed his own concept for the remaining un-built components of the Sagrada Familia and he quickly realized that his design simply could not be built in his lifetime. The current anticipated completion date is 2030 and that factors in all of the latest technologies and (according to the audio tour) almost 200 people working on it every day. While his death was premature, Gaudi had anticipated the need to leave behind direction for the next generation to follow as they continued his work. How did he do it? How would I do this?

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Even if you were just passively listening in your History of Architecture II class you will remember one name in connection with Barcelona … Gaudi. Antonio Gaudi was born in 1852 and worked during the “Modernismo” period in Catalonia, similar to the Art Nouveau movements in other parts of the world. Considered a golden age of design for this region of Spain, “Modernismo” created a simply amazing body of work that still exists in Barcelona today.Gaudi is considered the heart and soul of Modernismo design in Barcelona, and you literally cannot walk down the street without seeing references to him as even the sidewalk tile patterns are one of his designs. One of the most famous and intriguing of all his works is the church named Sagrada Familia (The Holy Family). Famous for its elaborate, intricate, and expressive design, the Sagrada Familia has an enormous physical presence in the Eixample district of Barcelona. It is intriguing to me because it was neither started nor finished by Gaudi – and is in fact still not finished.

Sagrada Familia was started in 1882 under the direction of parish architect Francisco de Villar. After a couple of months of construction there were disagreements with the society that commissioned the church and in 1883 Antonio Gaudi, at the age of 31, was asked to take over the project. While he completed many other spectacular spaces in Barcelona, this was to become his life’s work. At age 74 he was crossing the street to leave the unfinished church, which he was then living in, and was hit by a tram. A dramatic story to say the least but, what if anything can we learn from this church and from this story as a designers? Keep reading tomorrow to find out…

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This week on the blog, I would like to introduce Michelle Osburn Renn, a Harrington Alumna who recently travelled to Spain and was willing to share her experiences. I hope you enjoy her as a the guest writer this week!

As most of you know, when our formal education at Harrington ends it is only the beginning of the life-long quest to really learn about design. George Nelson famously titled one of his books on design as a manual on How To See, which is quite appropriate for the design profession. In school we start this process of training our eyes to see design (or lack of design) in the world around us. However, when school is over and our eyes become less blurry from the lack of sleep, we must keep utilizing those design eyes in our everyday life in order to keep moving forward in our design education.I had a wonderful opportunity visit Barcelona, Spain just after I graduated in August and even though becoming a connoisseur of sangria was high on the list of objectives for this trip, I also wanted to make sure to explore the rich design culture that Barcelona had to offer and to further develop my own design vision. As a result I have put together a few posts regarding my “Lessons Learned” from this trip!

Travel can be one of the most insightful and enriching methods of building your design knowledge – it’s hard for me to even remember what I did before I studied design and felt its historical and artistic influences on my travels. Granted, a trip to Barcelona is usually a once in a life time event, but even going to visit a relative in Iowa or taking a weekend trip with friends to Milwaukee provides an opportunity to soak in and process the environment through its colors, forms, structures, or sometimes, waste. I am still learning how to see, and I hope you enjoy these notes from my trips. Maybe it will encourage you to take time to “see” the design elements around you and maybe share them with others as well in the future!

All photos this week courtesy Michelle Osburn Renn

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