How to Wound the Architect Spouse
Architecture. A series that builds. Start here to follow the blocks from the beginning. Thanks for clicking the Cootchie.
Barcelona. A city that cradled my MTM, amplifying his understanding of the built environment even as he pushed his students to notice the world spiraling around them. A chaos of control. The ordered grid of the Eixample broken by the thrusting, phantasmic piles of Gaudi, unified by the perpetual stain hovering in the air.
To know MTM, I had to experience the visual fete that is Barcelona. Ignorant about its architectural history, I mooned in the cocoon of his past. Carefree MTM walking down the sidewalk of square swirled tile pavers. Professor MTM shifting his head ninety degrees at the aerial stone spires of Santa Maria del Mar. Student MTM sketching a fragment of a Roman wall.
Sighing and swooning made my stomach grumble. MTM squeezed my hand and led me to a divided street, quivering with humanity down its pedestrian core, the pre-game street party for Celtic Football Club versus FC Barcelona. When a Scotsman teetered on the tips of his toes before plunging, oblivious, into a terrorized me, MTM darted through the remaining crowd to the subway.
Let’s change our perspective, shall we?
Emerging from the Metro, we traversed the ribboned bottom of a blunt mountain. Montjuic MTM said. Jew Hill in English. The sheen of twinkling granite steps merged into one as they ascended its flank. There’s a park. Want to climb?
MTM tucked my hand into the steady crook of his arm, the city radiating like ripples in water the higher we progressed. Panting, we broke the surface in a horizontal park. Denuded trees stood sentinel along pathways at measured intervals.
What’s THAT curse of a building? I asked, pointing to a forbidding rectangle of marble and glass that flanked a pool. How can anyone change in that pool house, when it’s wide open? That’s a stupid design.
Warming to my topic, I approached the low, flat roofed box. Odd pieces of stone hovered with no visible means of support, their constellations of embedded minerals twinkling in the surface of the pool. Its interior united with the outdoors in a blurring of straight lines and angles, a pair of afflictive architect-y chairs the only apparent furnishings. You mean, we’ve walked all this way, and THAT’S the only seating available? What a stupendous waste of time.
Turning on my heel, MTM’s face engulfed my sight lines, frozen in a wounded grimace that mimicked cold structural travertine. It’s my favorite building in the world he muttered, seeing only it.
Oh crap I thought. Crapcrapcrap. Flashing my most alluring smile, I wondered Why?
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a German architect, concocted the Barcelona Pavilion as an entrance to the German section of the 1929 International Exposition. It was radical in its tranquil, stripped-down form, a purposeful blank space designed to help overstimulated visitors recharge. Staring into the pool. Zoning opposite a monochrome stone wall. Dawdling against a cool beam of stainless steel. An stark oasis inserted into the action charging around it. Revolutionary in its centered, zen-like calm.
MTM’s eye never strayed from his idol. Maybe the reflection of the building in his eyes would mutate my own vision. I pondered and strained, scanned and studied.
I still don’t get it I said.
That’s okay. Someday, you will. He delivered it like voodoo over the sound of our retreating footsteps bouncing against the faces of stone.