CTL 1608: Lessons from Gaudi

I was never much of a Gaudi fan. Liking the clean smooth lines of century old homes, his architecture always looked a little tacky from far behind my computer screen. But as we visited his works in Barcelona, I feel in love.

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In love with his environmentally friendly design whether in Park Guell’s naturally cooled market square or finding new life for broken ceramics in the Casa Batllo’s exterior.

In love with the story behind the design, the details in the facade of Sagrada Familia so all could access the story without entering and yet the simplicity of the interior to draw you up to the stars.

In love with his dedication to his vision and passion no matter how uncool, unpopular or ahead of it’s time it may have been.

7903661114_ec8f7636a3_zAs I stood in the middle of towering columns of stone it was hard not to be in awe. In awe of the intricacies of design in the seemingly simple, the vision that had to be laid out for the many to carry forward years later.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Gaudi and his Sagrada Familia project as we have journeyed through the readings about constructivism, situated learning, distributed cognition and now communities of practice. When I first blogged about the Sagrada Familia a few years back for a work blog what stood out to me was the distributed nature of the construction. The shared vision that each artist carried forward almost 100 years after Gaudi’s death. The selflessness that must exist when you have a vision that you know is greater than your lifetime, the urgency that must come with wanting to pass it on. Although I didn’t know the term distributed cognition or distributed constructivism at the time, standing in the middle of Sagrada Familia reminded me of the power of a community, the fact that no single person could accomplish the masterpiece but rather it was the knowledge of the past and the community in the present.

I thought my take aways were done but there always seems to be more to learn. As I was reading the characteristics of a community this week in Barab & Duffy’s, I wondered if they could be applied to the artistic community around the project. The community definitely has a heritage spanning 100 years. They have a clear vision driving their work which is being passed down by the community. With out each of the community members the project would halt. They are interdependent on each other to complete the work being done, mentoring those that are at the peripheral’s of the project searching for more.

The question I had the day I stood between the towering columns, is the same question I have today. How can I foster or contribute to such a community of practice that stands the test of time, that reproduces and creates a web of interdependence? Can I be selfless enough to share in a collective vision, to know at one point I may have to walk away? Our tools may be different, but as we design online learning environments I think there are many lessons we can take away from Gaudi.

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