Landmark buildings are generally too far apart to speak to pedestrians, and nothing speaks to drivers except the traffic around them. So to whom are they pitched?
The W-Hotel and Gehry’s fish in Barcelona, are two kilometres apart. By car that’s a distance of two parking lot nightmares, 10 sets of traffic lights, a dozen wrong turns down the wrong one way streets, etc etc.. You could try a taxi, but then you would have to find one, pay for one, and endure the dude’s deadly driving and local radio. By foot it is a one hour stroll along the sand, in the knowledge that the walk back will be just as long. Walking down the middle of the beach will plummet you into the abyss of 20,000 bare Spanish breasts (rough calculation), lulling the anglo protestant beach comber into a stupor that would stop him ever reaching Gehry’s big fish and taking his photo. By bike, 2km along the wide promenade is roughly 10 minutes.
On life’s highway I don’t smell the roses, look in every shop window, or even stop all that often to pay homage to breasts. Oh what has become of me! I have become one of these Napoleonic types who must survey the four reaches of every city I visit, snapping its iconic, designer-name buildings.
If landmark buildings were trees, I would be the dog who has to urinate on every last one. Being ferried around in a coach as I have been these past couple of weeks, leading a study tour, really hasn’t been satisfying in the way touring places by bike is. I have been taken by coach to all of Gaudi’s buildings, Mies’s Barcelona Pavilion, and every lookout, but feel as though I haven’t been to any of those places at all, because I did not make the journey by my own power and my own innate sense of direction. I have seen but not conquered.
Transport machines rob you of any sense that you have travelled. Yet walking is boring. The guys in the photo below are guys like me: most likely in Barcelona for a few days with their Bromptons, surveying terrain. And by the way, there is only 17 hours remaining to support or pre-order my book on cycling and cities—although there are no topless beach shots there either I’m sorry 🙂