An Architect’s Travels

Serpentine Gallery, Londres (c) Enrique Parra

It feels strange to be writing about travel today, now that half of Spain has finally set off to drive home. Thinking about travel, especially the way we architects travel, after so much time in lockdown is like looking at a blurred reflection from another life.

Travelling with an architect is not easy, I admit. We are the kind of people who make you change buses just to see a staircase, or queue up for hours to get into a museum and then spend most of the time inside taking photos of the roof construction instead of looking at the exhibits. That’s the way we are. And when our eyes meet those of some stranger while we’re examining the material used in the latest Serpentine Gallery, we inevitably think “he’s an architect too”. We wear our fascination with walls on our sleeve.

Lisboa, Portugal (c) Enrique Parra

When you’re a student, journeys are always an opportunity for discovery, regardless of the destination. It’s as if you’re seeing the world for the first time. Whether you’re visiting Barcelona, Madrid, San Sebastian… or your grandparents’ village where you used to spend your holidays, as soon as you find out that it’s one of Alejandro de la Sota’s rural colonisation villages it takes on a special meaning and everything is new and exciting.

Whether you’re visiting Barcelona, Madrid, San Sebastian… or your grandparents’ village where you used to spend your holidays, as soon as you find out that it’s one of Alejandro de la Sota’s rural colonisation villages it takes on a special meaning and everything is new and exciting.

But it’s that same obsessiveness and yearning to discover which always accompanies us that makes the patience of our non-architect spouses and friends so incredibly meritorious when they go with us. Let me take this opportunity to apologise and publicly thank you on behalf of all of us. You’re the best!

Lisboa, Portugal (c) Enrique Parra

Things are different on the other side of the blackboard, but they’re still just as interesting. Trips always involve a prior study of the destination: local architects, contemporary architects, classical architects, star-system architects … and then the most difficult thing: choosing when and for how long you’re going so stop in each place. This academic year I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Lisbon with a group of students and lecturers. One of the things we discovered, thanks to the guidance of Raquel Martínez  (coordinator of the Bachelor’s Degree in Basic Architecture at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos), was the Gulbenkian Foundation. What’s more, it was hosting an exhibition about the competition for its enlargement and the proposals submitted. That was without a shadow of a doubt the highlight of the trip, together with the opportunity we were given to take a look inside the Aires Mateus studio, where staff were kind enough not only to show us the installations but also to explain their working method.

But then, one day in March, COVID-19 locked us all up in our homes and there were no more trips, at least until now. All our plans were left hanging in the air. Some people were caught while they were packing. And now that the worst seems to be behind us, it’s time to start dusting off our walking shoes again. I know where I’m going on my next architect’s trip. What about you?


Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor
Autor:
(Murcia, 1986) Arquitecto y Arquitecto Técnico por la UCAM. Dirige el blog Pedacicos Arquitectónicos junto a Antonio Navarro y Juan Francisco Martínez además de MetaSpace Blog junto a Manuel Saga, desarrollando paralelamente su labor profesional en el campo de la construcción, el diseño y la docencia.

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