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Some days, being an editor feels like one part bookish logophile, one part world adventurer. While at the end of the day, the important thing is that we bring you the very best new products on the commercial market in our print and digital monthly issues, we don't take our fortune at being able to see the beauty of the world lightly, whether that be the grand halls of design shows in Milan to makers studios in Louisville, KY.
Often we show snippets of these trips on our Instagram pages (@interiorssource), but there are times when we want to dig a little deeper. In those instances, a mini-Happenings is in order. And what better way to start these reoccurring blog snapshots than with a recent trip through Valencia, Spain?
(For our formal Happenings coverage of Cevisama 2017, check out our May 2017 issue which takes an in-depth look at our favorite products.)
I can't claim to know any tricks for looking refreshed and on-point after spending the better part of 24 hours traveling, and, honestly, after going through security once again while your tired mind tries to remember your own name, it's pretty much pointless. However, while speed-walking the drag that could qualify as part of someone's marathon training known as the Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport, I was taken aback by the amount of sun streaming in with the morning. Despite being acutely aware of my circadian rhythm and the external stimuli which can modulate it, the ceiling-to-floor windows, wooden ceiling which undulated as you pass under, and the rainbow ombre of the supports has a way of making the reality that you're watching the sun rise in another part of the world more apparent.
Although we are fortunate to experience different parts of the world, typically we get more of a snapshot of our surroundings than a whole picture. However, the Tiles of Spain team worked in collaboration with the Valencia Tourist Board to give us a much richer experience of the historic city. Each day was peppered with architectural tours which took us into the timeline of Valencia, starting with a walking tour if the inner portion of the city.
One of the oldest cities in Spain, Valencia was founded in the Roman period (c. 138 BC) and was surrendered to the Moors after they successfully invaded in about 714 AD.
The thing I have always found impressive about European metropolises is the ways in which history is built around and reused, although seeing a Nike Outlet in a 14th century building never fails to confuse the somewhat-elitist American architectural historian in me.
Plaza Redonda, translated to The Round Square. The historical
market has been updated, bringing the past and present together.
The high alter of the Valencia Cathedral.
The Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady Valencia (alternatively known as Saint Mary's Cathedral or Valencia Cathedral) is, in my opinion, one of the more interesting spaces where time periods overlap, beginning with the sign in the entryway which explained to visitors how to log onto the wifi. A majority of the building was constructed between the 13th and 15th centuries, but over time, the original Gothic style was blended with consecutive styles, beginning with the addition of Renaissance pictorial and and sculptural decoration on the high alter and Resurrection chapel, an 18th century neoclassical redesign of the building, and subsequent removal of many of the neoclassical elements in the late 20th century in an effort to uphold the original elements of the cathedral.
The object which seemed to surprise our group the most was the above reliquary. Unfortunately, I didn't remember to save to whom it belonged to, but the reactions made me acutely aware that knowing reliquaries often hold the bones, blood, and hair of saints and popes isn't as common as I tend to think it is.
Also housed in the cathedral is what is claimed to be the Holy Grail.
I'm a bit ashamed to admit that prior to this trip, I hadn't heard of the Ciutat de les Arts (City of Arts and Sciences). Made up of several buildings which run along the old river's bed, the complex was designed by architects Santiago Calatrava (b. 1951) and Felix Candela (1910-1997). These stunning spaces are home to public spaces, including the IMAX theatre, the science museum, and the opera house.
On the third night, we were fortunate enough to have dinner in the Museu de les Ciencies Princep Felipe (science museum, seen behind me above). With the annual celebration of Las Fallas was approaching, we were surrounded by the traditional ninots--paper mache artistic sculptures ranging between two and ten feet tall, depicting satirical images of current events. They were separated by age group: a majority of the museum was filled with the adult ninots which were shaped into cartoonish political figures (we counted three Donald Trumps, although a majority showed Spanish political issues) all over 7 feet tall and in various stages of nudity. In the back, separating the "Rated PG-13" and "G" figures, were the much smaller--between 2 and 4 feet tall--childrens ninots, which showcased a bright array of statues showing imagination, the importance of health, and the occasional Disney character. Submitted by local artists, the museum patrons spent the month before Las Fallas voting on their favorite in both the adult and child category. The two winners were spared being burned on the last day of Las Fallas. (An AOL article and video showing the burning of the ninots can be found here.)
I took by far the most photos during this time, but between the sheer number and the fact that not all of our readers want to see 8 foot-tall statues of vibrantly colored nude old men and busty women, below are a handful of my favorites--a majority coming from the children's exhibit.
While shopping in a Nike store housed in a building centuries old is a bit strange for my American West Coast sensibilities, sitting in an original Roman theater which is still used today or standing on Plexiglas separating your shoes from the stones of a Roman street on the bottom floor of a condo building where families live above was not only difficult for my brain to truly accept, but brought to mind all the ways in which we are hindered in America from living alongside our history. Throughout the week, those of us in the press group would point out differences to how we expect these spaces to be shown in the US; we'd never be allowed to climb the shallow stairs leading to the top of the original city gates, someone would have sued; we'd never be able to walk through a Roman theater, someone would have chiseled their name into the stone, letting future generations know they were here; condos would never be built above 2,000+ year roads, it would be too costly for the government to perform upkeep. While there was plenty of graffiti throughout Valencia, the places like the centuries-old monuments and Jewish tombs (below) were untouched. At one point I asked if perhaps our history of either ripping down historic places (rip, original Penn Station) or making them into paid-tourist attractions was hindering our ability to accept and live with our national history. "Do you think by now all of these spaces would be tagged with spray paint if they were in America?"
These are questions that concern me, particularly in "post-fact" America which seems to be caused by both a lack of reading competency and historical knowledge, on all sides of the political spectrum. As designers, we have a reverence for places and spaces, but we have to build and maintain for our society at large. How will the users interact with the space? Can we be sure they will be respected?
During my studies, we looked at the history of museums. Although they are currently the best places for the public to access a wealth of knowledge and experience history first-hand, the notion in America is that they are elitist. In a way, they are; oftentimes the price for admission is prohibitive, but even with pay-what-you-want fees and free-to-the-public nights, the perception is negative in a country where wealth and education seems to many intertwined with elitist ideals. What have we lost in our collective conscious and nationalistic ideals in separating our history from our every day life?
Of course, I can't end this post without showing a bit of Cevisama. A full recap will be in our May 2017 issue, but below are some of my favorite shots from the show.
VIVES Ceramica Diamond by Realonda Istanbul by Realonda
Oxi Negro and Cenefa Oxi by Todagres Frame collection by Keraben
Roca Tile Track by Metropol Thin Big by Roca Tile
Collection with artist David Carson for Cas Ceramica