I have been blessed to spend most of my life traveling. I love living in a place that I’ve never been to, and creating my own experiences through them. There are many places I want to go back to and many others I never wish to return, but all those experiences never stop me from wanting to explore and keep learning. My mother is adventurous, and would sign our family up for trails through the Middle Eastern desert, safaris in the Serengeti and what felt like time-travelling by visiting ruins or pristine temples in Egypt. I love exploring, eating food like a local, learning the language and the customs of the place. But my favorite way of getting to know a city and its culture is through its history, especially the architecture of the past. Sometimes it’s really interesting to see what elements of the past are still incorporated into our modern life or have just disappeared.
For some, Historical Architecture is one of the most boring topics, but I am just totally captivated by it! So much so, that I plan to begin a Masters in Architectural History this year in London. I think it’s really interesting to think about the time period of a place, when it was built, and the stories that filled the spaces.
Cairo, Egypt (2001 / 2006)
When I was ten we moved to Cairo, Egypt. One day, my mother took us sight-seeing around what felt like all the temples (well not all because there’s A LOT of temples in Egypt and it would take years to see them all) in the vicinity of Cairo. We saw the pyramids and explored the tombs. Clutching a flashlight, my sister and I snaked our way down the pyramid tunnels looking for a mummy, wondering if Egyptians were short and had night vision. Later on, we explored the temples of Luxor and the guides were teaching us the meaning behind the hieroglyphics and how to read them. I began to wonder why we don’t write on our walls at home, and then I learned later that a temple and a house are two very different types of spaces.
Throughout the years as an adult I have continued this lifestyle that my mother introduced to me, to move to a new place and dive into its culture through architecture. I think it's a beautiful way of getting to know a city.
Venice, Italy (2017)
One of my favorite trips was a study abroad program with my closest friends in Italy. This was the first time I ventured out on my own with people who love architecture just like me. We lived in Venice. Crossing the Rialto Bridge everyday to get to class, and getting lost on the way almost every day. From my bedroom window I could see the canals and hear the gondoliers singing back and forth to each other. On weekends, we explored the city and traveled to different towns in Italy. We slept on trains to get to our destinations and created great memories along the way. In my mind, these memories are intertwined with the architecture. What I loved about Italy was how there was history all around us, frozen in time through the buildings while modern day life was swirling around them. It’s crazy to think how many different generations of people have passed through those archways in Venice, creating memories and leaving pieces of themselves along the way.
Barcelona, Spain (2017)
From Italy I planned a trip by myself to go to Barcelona, Spain to visit the buildings of my favorite architect, Antoni Gaudí. He was a very prominent architect of his time during the Catalan modernism movement. He stood out from his contemporaries with his fantastical design inspired by nature and his out of the box thinking for structure. You might know his most famous building, a cathedral in Barcelona, La Sagrada Familia, that is still being built to this day! Construction started while he was alive in 1882 and is still going today in 2021, that’s 139 years of construction!! I personally am more interested in his residential work, where living in one of his designs is like living in a fantasy. In one of the homes he designed, there's a fireplace inside a mushroom cutout in the living room, I mean the freedom and imagination Gaudí had is so inspiring! I learned to value attention to detail across scales, from the tile used on the facades of a house, to the sculptures engraved onto the façade of a cathedral, to his custom design of door knobs for different hand grips. This trip reinforced my love for historical buildings, and the things we can learn from them and apply them into our designs. I spent years seeing these buildings on PowerPoint presentations, books and through a computer screen, this time it was all in front of me and it was even better in person. I came back to my design classes that fall inspired from my journeys and ready to start creating again.
My plan was to continue travelling and exploring, but plans changed last year as I’m sure we’ve all experienced. I’ve found other ways to explore culture, my other favorite way of getting to know a place is through nature, but that’s a story for another blog ;)