Musings of Can Cata: A Summer of Architectural Exploration and Understanding Urbanism
by Megha Sahu
After a well spent weekend in Barcelona, exploring all its architectural marvels, I finally reached Estacion de Francia to meet the rest of the participants of this year’s batch and head with them to our common awaited destination. While we were exchanging greetings and passing through the comforting greens of the outskirts of the city, leaving its skyline behind, it was almost surreal that I was finally on my way to the experience I was looking forward to for so many months now.
Can Cata. Hardly any time had passed when we drove into Can Cata. Foliage on both sides, not much visible beyond it, it was a seemingly long stretch before we crossed a tiny bridge above a dried stream that the road opened up to a front pond and right behind it, The House of Can Cata. Its beauty was a testament for the experience to come.
During the two weeks that we spent in Can Cata, for the Traditional Architecture Summer School organized by the Traditional Building Cultures Foundation and INTBAU Spain, one to study and learn the aspects of the traditional architecture and urbanism and the other to develop proposals for an intervention, we were able to familiarize ourselves with the study site with utmost focus and gather intimate knowledge of the area because we got the opportunity to reside within the premises.
The first week was a well curated experience of all essential elements of urbanism from the plazas of Barcelona to neoclassical gardens hidden away in the fabric of development. Visiting these sites gave us fascinating insights about the architecture and urbanism of classical and traditional construction, and the discussions and reviews from faculty and peers broadened our perspectives to be able to view repeating principals differently such as seeing streets leading to doors sitting like mantels pieces on its architecture, or series of plazas becoming events in space.
Eventful days were followed by lectures by masters and architects in the evenings which were carried out throughout the duration of the summer school, dispersing knowledge on diverse subjects ranging across understanding Mediterranean typologies like masias, traditional construction techniques and vernacular material usage and how vital it is to stitch all these together.
The learnings from the visits, reviews, lectures and many enticing workshops translated into working on developing proposals for a new town with pre-existing context during the second week. The exercise was a rigorous process, to develop a series of plazas along a morphed central axis of the new town which passed through the church and rectory and their designated plaza highlighting hierarchy through play of levels, and ended at the house of Can Cata and its gardens with its own set of conservation and additive proposals. Working on such a scale to bring about a town while applying the principles learnt and respecting the context to keep the traditional local character alive within its planning was the epitome of the summer school, taking small steps towards urbanism and working in the realm of urban planning while being true to traditional architecture was essential in order to show that new constructions, buildings, towns and cities can come up without letting go of the old time-tested ways.
I have immense gratitude for Alireza and Mina Sagharchi for the scholarship that enabled me to attend the Traditional Architecture Summer School in Can Cata, Spain and for Rebeca, Guillermo, Alejandro and the Traditional Building Cultures Foundation and INTBAU Spain teams who organized and managed the summer school as beautifully and effortlessly as possible. Also for the faculty and the guests for driving the program and giving us the lesson that we as enthusiasts of traditional architecture, art and urban scale understandings will carry forward into our respective streams. For the Master Rafael Manzano himself, thank you, for your presence and giving us the opportunity to learn from you. And for Leopoldo, and his family for not only being a teacher, mentor and friend but also for hosting us and making us feel like we would never want to leave.
More information about the summer school can be found at the following link: