Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Barcelona Journal II: Up on the Roof
watercolor by Hallie Cohen
“Up on the Roof” was the title of a Drifters song, but it’s
where you want to be in Barcelona. Barcelona is literally a roof party in an
architectural wonderland. At times it almost looks like a fairytale. On the
Passieg to Gracia a brightly enameled Gothic turret on an office building presents a picture book setting against a clear blue sky; further
down the street the modernist canopy ofEl Corte Ingles, a department store, sweeps dramatically over the
sidewalk. The facility with architectural design is almost a genetic attribute
that Barcelona’s builders demonstrate with effortless facility. Looking at the
dazzling democracy of styles one wonders how a country which cottoned to Franco
also produced such imaginativeness in the construction of its buildings. But
there was a Spanish Civil War which encompassed both political and artistic
convictions (Picasso never returned to Spain because of the Franco dictatorship). Could architectural expression and flourish have been one of the
few avenues of free expression during the years of repression under Franco. Gaudi,
is obviously Barcelona’s most famous native son, when it comes to architecture,
and the spires of the Segrada Familia dominate the landscape. But literally just about any
street is a feast with everything plunked down in an almost willy nilly fashion
that is so ubiquitous that it not only works, but creates the expectation of
non-conformity. Just take a pedestrian mall like the Portal de l’Angel. El Corte
reinvents itself in a baroque design. Next door to it The Catalonia Hotel
occupies a neo-classic structure and next to that is Zara in a Bauhaus box.
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.