The project for the 2012 Barcelona summer program studio for graduate architecture students was the design of the Bestiari Foundation, a public building to host the collection of Giants, Beasts, and Bigheaded figures of Ciutat Vella. Adrian Luchini, the Raymond E. Maritz Professor of Architecture, is the director of the program. Studio faculty included Luchini, Elena Cánovas, and Anna Puigjaner (TA), while Canovas, Antonio Sanmartín, and Manuel Bailo led the seminar "Barcelona IN-land/construction/craft."
The Giants have been part of Catalan tradition for centuries. In the beginning, they consisted of men walking on stilts who sought to attract crowds, teaching sacred scenes as part of the Corpus Christi processions. Nowadays, they consist of larger-than-life figures carried on stretchers that support their weight. Catalonia is currently home to an estimated 3,000 Giants organized in more than 300 groups that animate the streets during various festivities.
These Giants wander through the crowded streets of the Gothic Quarter while adults cheer, children look half amazed and half fearful, and the sound of local ballads fills the space. In developing design proposals, students had to ask themselves what the Giants would see. The gaze of the Giants draws a memorable network of invisible threads between the neighboring buildings as they move along in their hurried desire to capture it all. The recreation of their gaze acknowledges these are not static sculptures but actual living components of the city experience.
In as much as the project deals with the sties and with its own conceptual basis, it holds a specific program. Proposals had to define complex and diverse indoor and outdoors spaces, appropriate to their relationship between different uses, spaces, and scales. The program included both neighborhood-scale and city-scale activities. The main areas included a hall linking the public exterior space with activities inside the foundation; an exhibition area for presentation of the traditional Giants; an educational area for seminars and workshops; and outdoor space for events. The urban area not occupied by the building had to be considered as part of the proposal and defined as well as the rest of the project.