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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.

70 Comments Post a comment
  1. I love that building and that park

    February 7, 2012
    • MTM’s brother David has a funnier story. He visited MTM when he was living in Barcelona. Over the course of the week, MTM dragged David to that building about five times, leaving him to loudly ask, “WHY are we here AGAIN???” Of course, I bonded with David instantly. :)

      February 7, 2012
  2. I think the dog ate my comment, my V card decided to go dormant….how is that even possible when going from one site to another?

    Anyway….a very serene and simple view, unspoiled except for the candy machines in the entrance way. Yay Snickers!!

    http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://goeurope.about.com/library/graphics/gal/barcelona_gaudi_1.jpg&imgrefurl=http://goeurope.about.com/od/barcelonawebresources/l/bl_barcelona_g1.htm&h=300&w=400&sz=33&tbnid=DxQBMnOkXOEgYM:&tbnh=94&tbnw=125&zoom=1&docid=7oJ5YGf3eoSLkM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=JRExT9yvHOHn0QHF6N3dBw&ved=0CDsQ9QEwAQ&dur=1729

    February 7, 2012
    • I wondered what happened to you this morning, Lou. I thought maybe you were preparing to pop into our Rotary meeting.

      I think my phantasmic pile description fits this building and many of his others. My favorite of Gaudi’s is the dragon house. I linked to it in the post, but I posted another link below.

      http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-photo/h_hurst/1/1241122860/gaudi-s-casa-batllo-dragon-house.jpg/tpod.html

      February 7, 2012
      • Lou Mello #

        I commented about 5 after 6 and just happened to check back before leaving for the office and noticed it did not show up, must have been the Cyber Ninja Gremlin @Carnell, he apparently did not like my awesome video of Super Bowl highlights.

        February 7, 2012
      • Carnell hasn’t shown his avatar here today. You cannot blame it on him.

        February 7, 2012
      • You shouldn’t blame it on Carnell. But someone always does…

        February 13, 2012
    • I am going to leave this question for him to answer. I always get in trouble when I try to explain his architectural preferences. :)

      February 7, 2012
    • Lou Mello #

      I like the “lookout tower” :)

      February 7, 2012
    • mtm #

      Meh (I think you have used that reaction before…) I prefer Le Corbusier originals more than their progeny.

      February 7, 2012
  3. Oh good, a reason to go back to Barcelona :)

    February 7, 2012
  4. Ah, I feel like I was right there with you. One of my favorite lines today: “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.” As usual, I feel like I’m right there with you step after step, exhaustive breath after exhaustive breath only to reach the summit and see the glory. Thank you for the journey. :)

    February 7, 2012
    • I am SO GLAD someone enjoyed that part of the story. MTM would’ve made me edit it out to shorten the post if he had proofed it for me. :) Luckily for me, he came to bed too late (still working on the house), and the extraneous detail stayed in.

      February 7, 2012
  5. Oh, Andra, I so understand how a verbal ejaculation spontaneously uttered can wound these men!

    Only a few weeks ago, when some auto race was on in Daytona, I wounded Bill by exclaiming, “That’s stupid.” …because he wanted to feast his eyes and ears on the race that I thought was NASCAR, but it was something else…international and 24 hours. I learned not only had I insulted him, hurt him but showed my ignorance.

    All I could do was say I was sorry, and offer my apologies and declare my stupidity.

    Maybe one day I’ll “get it” too.

    February 7, 2012
    • I try – try and fail, usually, but try – to stop these instantaneous opinions from gushing forth from my pie hole. I am too blunt and opinionated for my own good.

      And, Bill loves you. That you tackle most things with passion is just one of the reasons.

      February 7, 2012
    • Calling the 50th anniversary 24 Hours of Daytona stupid… really.

      Next she’ll be denigrating the 80th running of the 24 Heures du Mans in June.

      Quite disappointing after all my educational efforts.

      February 7, 2012
      • I am confident she won’t make the same faux pas again, Bill.

        February 7, 2012
      • I’ll try not to so quickly let things slip from my tongue…after all, you hold yours probably more than I mine. :-)

        February 7, 2012
  6. Debbie #

    This brings back such fond memories of Barcelona. Loved the Sagrada Familia! We missed the Barcelona Pavilion. )-:

    February 7, 2012
    • We wanted to go in November but ended up in England instead. This was 2004, and MTM hasn’t lived there in a decade. He wanted to stay, but I’m glad it didn’t work out. :)

      February 7, 2012
  7. I know nothing about architecture, really. I would have said the same thing.

    Mine is a wood-worker, passionate about the qualities and particularities of tree species, and my ignorance of quarter-sawn white oak once evoked a similar reaction.

    But then again? He doesn’t like my Italian Mousseline Buttercream frosting…

    February 7, 2012
    • Cameron, I will eat your Mousseline Buttercream any day.

      I grew up in a wood household. My Dad was a forester, and he worked wood as a hobby. Still does. I find myself in the same place as you, being dragged out to his shed to ooh and aah over his various projects, when they sort of all look the same to me.

      February 7, 2012
  8. Andra, dear that is what we call a OH SNAP! moment. Foot-In-Mouth for regular speakin’ folks. I’ve done this so many times that I barely cringed when MTM declared his undying love for the silly-shaped pool box.

    February 7, 2012
    • It DOES look like a pool house. I appreciate this building now and understand its beauty, but I don’t think my first impression of its use was totally without merit.

      February 7, 2012
  9. I love that pool . . . filled with serene stones. But I’d like to see its circumferance embraced with colorful and comfy chairs. ;)

    February 7, 2012
    • I think some color would be a noteworthy addition, Nancy. (MTM is staring daggers at me right now…………)

      February 7, 2012
      • but there is color, there is so much color! Why can’t you guys see the colors?!

        February 7, 2012
      • I’m still learning………….

        February 7, 2012
      • heh, I was just being silly, I know you are learning and you probably know so much more than me it’s not funny….I need to find some architects to hang out with so I can catch up!

        February 7, 2012
      • mtm #

        Color? ALW’s stock photo does not do it justice…of course, I have about 6 bazillion slides of it in every kind of light and at all angles…nothing digital, though. Imagine figured green marbles, orange onyx, red velvet drapery, shimmering chrome steel, white leather and the dance of bright reflections across the ceiling….http://www.barcelona-life.net/2010/03/06/mies-barcelona-pavilion/
        And I’m just getting started….this is one of the most theatrical buildings, but the clever aspect is that you are the star actor.

        February 7, 2012
      • Ooooh, I love your description!! I’d marry you Michael if you weren’t already married and if we were gay. Ah hell, who am I joking, I’d even marry you if we weren’t gay.

        February 7, 2012
      • Oh Lawd.

        February 8, 2012
    • Just make sure two of them are not together with you, or you’ll feel omitted from the conversation. :) I’m giving them a hard time. They do pretty well.

      February 7, 2012
  10. Oddly, the links to the site made me see the building the way you did. But your picture made me see it as MTM does. The still, pebbled water reflecting the white overhang looks so very peaceful. But I confess I’ve never enjoyed flat roofs, so I’m not sure I would enjoy in person.

    February 7, 2012
    • I’d love to see it again, now that I have spent close to a decade wandering around the world in the wake of an architect. I’m sure I will see it with new eyes someday.

      February 7, 2012
  11. This is my first visit, but I’m in awe of your literary skills!

    February 7, 2012
    • Thank you. I have a long way to go, but I’m working on them. :)

      February 7, 2012
  12. this truly is a beautiful site, clean lines EVERYWHERE

    February 7, 2012
  13. linda #

    Ouch – from a fellow “foot in mouth” sufferer I feel your pain ;) We adored Barcelona – missed your MTM’s building though! It is very visually appealing from an uncluttered point of view but how much more pleasant to appreciate its beauty from a comfy stool!

    February 7, 2012
    • Linda, I have a long list of things I want to do there if I ever return. We once pondered Barcelona as a two or three day stop on the way to South Africa. Then, we decided we just need to live in Europe to visit South Africa. Then, the world’s economy went to pot, and we shelved all planning. The comfy stool is what I get these days, too, but it does give a nice teaser, doesn’t it?

      February 7, 2012
  14. That mute adoration: just being there: you and I do that, but we prefer temporal monoliths rather than spatial ones like MTMs. Great brains, just different specialisms :-D

    February 7, 2012
    • Over time, I’ve come to appreciate his attraction to space, but I still gravitate toward what I’ve always liked. St. Paul’s Cathedral, as an example.

      February 7, 2012
  15. you blasphemed the holy modernist shrine and lived. you’re lucky. how could you make such a rookie mistake?

    February 7, 2012
    • I can’t explain it, other than he loves me. After this faux pas, he made me pose in front of it, two of the things he loved most, together in the same picture. That’s what he said, and when men say these things, we women can consider liking new things. :)

      February 7, 2012
  16. Ooh, I have to admit, I kind of love that. I don’t actually want to *live* with architecture that modern (I’m with you on the “Where to they change?” question), but I love looking at it. Especially if there’s water involved.

    I’ve never been to Barcelona but it’s definitely on my list. a) Gaudi. b) Tapas.

    February 7, 2012
    • Let me know if you go. MTM lived there for over a year. Lots to see.

      February 7, 2012
  17. Love your blog and the building. It’s fantastic – LMVDR is one of my fav’s..

    February 7, 2012
    • Valerie, I have grown to appreciate him over the years. MTM continues to insist Mies is not his favorite architect, but he is.

      February 7, 2012
  18. Someday you will…great story.

    February 7, 2012
  19. Lucky you…someday I shall see the world’s architecture! As for the building; I had to do a bit of research quickly because it has the feel/facade of our local art center’s first bldg. Not the same architect, though, just the same look. I love low roofs, minimalist design, and glass glass glass. How exciting that you two are such a creative, complimentary couple to learn from each other ~

    February 7, 2012
    • I learn much more from MTM than he ever learns from me. :)

      We don’t have much in the way of modernism in Charleston. It is nice to see what we have, but it is also great to go elsewhere and study what’s on offer.

      February 8, 2012
  20. What an extraordinary experience–to have a guided tour of Barcelona with the man who loves you, and on top of it, he knows the city intimately! And I’ll bet you’re the only one who can get away with “wounding” him :-) Debra

    February 8, 2012
    • I don’t think we ever totally get away with wounding our spouses/partners. Whenever I do it, I try to make amends, and I’m always genuinely sorry.

      February 8, 2012
  21. Let’s see… you’re in Barcelona and instead of going to a soccer game you go to a … building. Not even an old building. Sigh….

    February 8, 2012
  22. blackwatertown #

    Ah I like it and the most about that city – though the food is better in Bilbao.

    February 8, 2012
    • I still need to get to Bilbao. So much of the world to see, and Spain is such a diverse, almost disconnected place.

      February 8, 2012
  23. Molly Felde #

    I was one of those students and it is one of my favorite buildings, that and the Kursaal (also shown to us by ‘Professor M’). Ironically, I’ve now got the job of convincing my students of its magic…
    http://mollyfelde.wordpress.com/2011/08/13/teaching-mies/

    February 10, 2012
    • Molly, MTM was really flattered by your description of him in your post. He described himself as a ‘dogmatic’ professor.

      February 10, 2012
  24. Molly Felde #

    :-) Yeah, that might be the appropriate term, either way, one of the best we had.

    February 11, 2012

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