Saturday, September 1, 2012

Expanding frontiers in Europe

This Article was written by my nephew Roland Otarola-Grasso who is 19 years old, he is an architect student in Peru and he recently visited Europe for a month for educational purposes and to explore Master degree possibilities and these are his impressions.-
I had a trip to Europe with three of my friends. We all are architect students in Peru (South America, on the Pacific ocean side) Southern Hemisphere (it is winter here) with just one more year to complete our undergraduate program, we decided to visit the best architecture world known cities of this continent, and while at these places also to get involved with their people, culture and of course with what we learned at school about their history, urbanism and get to see some of these iconic places.
It was hard to decide where to go since we were just to stay for one month and we definitely did not want to make the mistake of visit too many and just overseeing them in the surface.
My trip started in Madrid (Spain), our flight was so long (12 hrs) and tiresome, but I was really excited to discover this city for myself since I set foot out of the airplane. It is summer and 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), the heat felt so strong in Madrid (Lima city’s summer reaches only 28 Celsius or 83 Fahrenheit in the worst case) but we managed to get used to it. I was very impressed by this city, whoever planned this city did a good job by keeping this place with a quite uniform pattern in all of their buildings, they managed to keep all the building heights almost the same block after block, and they are very pleasant to the eye.
This city is also handicap friendly, we found day after day with a series of features that make their life’s easier, things like special textures in the floors  for the blind in all streets so they can find their ways, also all the street lights have a special beeps and vibrations that help the blind or the hearing impaired people. It was also impressive to find maps in textures on the floors so the handicap can find their ways too.


Citizens of Madrid were in general  very  nice and happy, maybe the happiest people of all  the cities that we visited. Although the general economic crisis in Europe (we know is not the best these days) they seemed happy and cordial.

I witnessed a few street protests while in this city (I had witnessed a few in my native country as well, I do not like them in general because some of them can turn violent with the police presence, while well as a way of free political speech expression, not so good when some people take it too far with the violence) they were protesting for the so called cuts in their national budgets (pensions, salaries, medical benefits, etc) that they were forced to take mandated by the European union. They were in front of governmental offices, public spaces, and city squares. I was a bit scared of the possible outcome of these, while being in a foreign country without any family and just with a bunch of 19 year old friends.

Although the economic burden and the public protests they still made an effort to show their best as a city.
Barcelona - Pabellon Mies Van Der Rohe
Barcelonans in general are very proud of their culture and where they came from, they rather being called “Catalonians” than “Spaniards”. This is the city of Gaudi who has very impressive buildings like La Pedrera, Casa Balto, and the climax of his career La Sagrada Familia.
My next destination was Paris, this is the place I liked the most, this is a beautiful city from any angle you see it, quite organized, clean and Paris mixes the old with the modern so easily. It was so surreal to walk from one historic building next to an ultra modern building.
Barcelona - Agbar Tower
What I liked the most was the use of the public spaces as cultural open spaces. It was impressive to see open public spaces under a monument, cathedral or touristic attraction, these public spaces are open to anyone who want to make use of it, like singers from Sudan, dancers from India, etc. they all are mixed at these spaces and this is what makes Paris so rich culturally and unique.
Rome our next destination, this was a totally different experience, I was very pleased of walking these really old (ancient) narrow streets, those little spaces, talking to their people (my mother side of the family has Italian roots) the shape of the city, the old monuments, the people from all over the world, made me experience other cultures, sensations, feelings, aromas, and things that can’t be described only with words. I felt the history in every corner of this city, the energy of this city is just amazing.

Barcelona - La Sagrada Familia

Florence is another city that I liked a lot. Their streets are not as narrow as in Rome, they are much cleaner.  I can tell they care about their monuments very much (believe it or not, more than in Rome) maybe because this is a much smaller city, I do not know. Florence is the city where Renascence was born and this was an artistic and architectural movement (tendency) that revolutionized the world. My favorite building is there, which is the Filipo Brunelleschi Cathedral, Santa Maria dei Fiore, this was built around 1,300 AC and it still stands intact still.
I had the unique opportunity of climb to the top, this was definitely one of the best sites seeing I ever made, you can see the whole city from this point, all at you reach and it is so pretty.
Amsterdam, was our last destination before going back home, Amsterdam is a small city with lots to tell about history, this city born in the 1,300 AC like a port commercial city, since this city is well located in Europe it was in its advantage to become the commercial point in its early years, with merchants coming in and out from southern and northern Europe, and with the willpower of its people Amsterdam became a vibrant city in this continent.
Barcelona - La Pedrera
This city is quite calm, organized, quiet and liberal. It was a shocker to me to confuse a coffee house with a marijuana dispensary, the legal prostitution (where they offer their services in big windows like a department store), open gay marriage, etc. All of this was a complete change (shocker) from what I am used to, coming from a conservative city like Lima, but later on I realized people are very tolerant and respectful of each other’s rights and once you learn the culture of the city you embrace it, you appreciate it.
Amsterdam is a bicycle city, a bit chaotic for the number of bicycles and the number of people living in a small city, but definitely is the city energy that makes anybody to just fall in love with it. This is definitely the most diverse city of Europe, Asians, Europeans from all over, North Americans, Latin Americans, etc. All of them seemed to be attracted to live in Amsterdam for the freedom, the open way of thinking, without any kind of oppression, without any prejudice, and this was what impressed me the most of Amsterdam.
Barcelona - Natural Science Museum -
Herzog & De Meuron
In general, after this trip I can say each place I visited, each city was unique, their people, their cultures, the way they do things, their languages, trying to communicate with each in a different language was amazing and fun, all of this makes me realize that the people that live in these cities were shaped, influenced by the city that they live in, their buildings, the general way of doing things, their cultural customs, their uniqueness. At the end I realized that have learned a lot by just visiting another cities in another continent and interacting with their habitants makes me realized of things that I was not aware before, experiencing something like this opened my eyes in a way that I never experience before and I have witnessed how broad is this world.

Roland Otarola-Grasso.


El viaje que hice a Europa lo hice con 3 amigos mas, estudiantes de arquitectura del 8 ciclo igual que yo, planeamos mochilear por las principales ciudades de ese continente y vivir lo que aprendimos en la universidad, un poco de historia, un poco de urbanismo, un poco de modernidad y sobretodo tener un intercambio cultural. Lo dificil fue escogerlas porque teniamos un mes y tampoco queriamos cometer el error de visitar muchas a la vez sin descubrir el encanto de cada una de ellas.
Bilbao - Guggenheim
Mi viaje comenzo en Madrid,fue un vuelo muy pesado, fueron 12 horas de vuelo, ya estaba ansioso por descubrir la ciudad por mi mismo desde el momento en que salia del avion. Era verano, hacia 40 grados un calor muy fuerte que quemaba pero poco a poco nos fuimos acostumbrando. Madrid me impresiono mucho, la ciudad trata de guardar un estilo uniforme en todos sus edificios, se respetan las alturas en todas las cuadras y eso hace que se vea bastante bien. Tambien esta acondicionada para que sea accesible a los discapacitados, porque encontramos una serie de cosas que les hace la vida mas facil, como texturas en el piso de todos los caminos para que los ciegos se guien y lleguen a a su destino, tambien el semaforo emite un sonido cada vez que es permitido cruzar y de vez en cuando tambien hay mapas en las  veredas con bajos y altos relieves para que tambien se puedan guiar. La gente es muy amable y alegre, tal vez las mas alegres de las ciduades que visite, a pesar de su situacion economica que en la actualidad se sabe que no es muy buena. Eso es digno de destacar, porque fui testigo de mas de una manifestacion y protestas por recortes en el trabajo y sueldos, frente al Palacio de gobierno y en algunas plazas, acostumbrado a las manifestaciones que hay en mi pais me asuste un poco ya que en el Peru las manifestaciones suelen terminar con violencia, es un buen ejemplo de cómo la libertad de expresion no deberia ser entendida como linertinaje. A pesar de la dificultad como pais, guardan su escencia y nunca te muestran una mala cara.
Mi otro destino fue Barcelona, es una ciudad diferente, es una ciudad mas financiera lo que hace que las personas corran y esten siempre apuradas pendiente del trabajo, parece que son mas serias y disciplinadas. Son muy orgullosos de su cultura se sienten fielmente arraigados por su legado, ellos prefieren ser llamados catalanes a españoles.  Barcelona es la ciudad de Gaudi, tiene edificios impresionantes como la Pedrera, casa Batlo y la obra cumbre a la que dedico toda su vida: La sagrada familia.
Mi siguiente destino fue Paris, fue la ciudad que mas me gusto, la ciudad es muy bonita, es muy limpia, ordenada y mezcla lo antiguo con lo moderno. Uno puede ser testigo de toda la historia pero a la vez deslumbrarse por lo edificios mdoernos que hay.
Una de las cosas que mas me gusto fue el uso que la gente le da al espacio publico como lugar de expresiones culturales, es frecuente ver plazas bajo los principales atractivos turistico (monumentos, catedrales, museos) que han sido regaladas a las personas para que cada uno encuentre su mejor uso. Estos lugares es donde cada uno se manifiesta como es, es lo que hace rica  la ciudad y a sus habitantes, ese intercambio de culturas es lo que hace a Paris unico.
Dias despues nos fuimos a Roma la ciudad es otro cuento que contar, me encanto senir y recorrer esas callecitas, esos recovecos, la morfologia de la ciudad te hace experimentar nuevas sensaciones y poder sentir toda la historia de esa ciudad tan vieja es maraviloso.
Florencia es la otra ciudad que me gusto bastante, sus calles son bien limpias, se nota que se preocupan por sus monumentos (mas que Roma), sera porque es una ciudad mas chica y tienen poco que mantener, no lo se. Aquí fue donde se origino el renacimiento que fue un movimiento artistico y arquitectonico que revoluciono al mundo. Mi edificio favorito se encuentra alli, es la catedral de Filipo Brunelleschi , Santa Maria dei Fiore, se construyo alrededor del año 1300 y todavia esta casi intacta. Tuve la oportunidad de subir hasta la cupula y fue una de las mejores vistas que podi vivir, uno puede ver toda la ciudad bajo sus pies y es bastante bello.
Amsterdam es una ciudad pequeña pero com mucha historia, la ciudad se inicio en los años 1350 como una puerto comercial, por su ubicación geografica servia como pase entre europa del sur y europa del norte y por eso comenzo como un pueblo de mercaderes que buscaba un buen futuro. La ciudad es bastante pacifica, tranquila y liberal, por la legalizacion de la marihuana, la prostitucion, matrimonios homosexuales . Al principio es un poco chocante ver ese cambio del que no estamos aconstumbrados pero despues te das cuenta de que la tolerancia y el respeto es lo que reina en la ciudad y le comienzas a acoger cariño.
Es un poco caotico por las bicicletas y por la cantidad de gente relativamente grande en la ciudad que es pequeña, pero es otro estilo de vida del que algunos llegan a enamorarse. Amsterdam es la ciudad europea con la mas variada diversidad cultural que visite, hay latinos, americanos, asiaticos, europeos de todas partes, etc, etc, es como si Amsterdam le perteneciera a todos y es como esa pequeña ciudad en la que todos anhelaran vivir, sin ningun tipo de opresion y sin ningun tipo de prejuicio. Eso fue lo que ma sme impresiono de Amsterdam.

Algo que uno puede apreciar con los viajes es que cada ciudad es una historia unica y diferente para haber llegado a lo que es en la actualidad, cada ciduad tiene constumbres dferentes y la gente que habita en ella se ha formado bajo esas tendencias de vida. Viajar es importante, con esto te influencias de mas cosas, es como salir de la rutina para experimentar cosas nuevas y ver y ser testigo de la inmensidad del mundo.

Roland Otarola-Grasso.


Click pictures to enlarge - Haga click en las fotografias para agrandar
Bilbao - Guggenheim

Paris - City of Light

Paris - Triumph Arch

Paris - Louvre
Paris - checking messages
Paris - Montparnasse Cementery -
Cesar Vallejo - Peruvian Author
Paris - At night
Paris - Eifel Tower
Rome - The Panteon
Rome - Piazza Navona
Rome - Castel Sant'Angelo
Rome - Piazza De Spagna
Florence - City View