Places we’ve been to or through in the last twenty days: Beaune, Chalon-sur-Saône, Mâcon (does not rhyme with bacon), Trevoux, Lyon, Tournon-sur-Rhône, Valence, Cruas, Meysse, Pierrelatte, Saint-Restitute, Avignon, Arles, Lunel, Saint-Aunès, Montpellier, Saint-Pierre le Mer, Argelès-sur-Mer, Cerbère, Colera, Figueres, Girona, Sils, Malgrat de Mar, Arenys de Mar, Mataró, Badalona, Sitges, Barcelona.
That’s right, Madison and I reached Barcelona! And a chorus of angels descended from on high to welcome us and pronounce to the world that we had arrived and all of Europa rejoiced.
Just kidding. We rolled up to my friend Toño’s apartment, locked our bikes, drank a couple glasses of sangria, and passed out.
It’s the end of bike tour, but not the end of our production schedule for Self-Made. We arrived in this city over a week ago, and we’ve been busy. We stood in awe of FabLab BCN, situated inside the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia. Student projects are displayed on all the walls, some feasible solutions for a sustainable future, some closer to science fiction. Everywhere there is something to look at: interlocking laser cut spheres hang from the ceiling, manikins rigidly model alternative fabrics, imaginative furniture smells freshly milled.
Director Tomas Diez met us at the small outdoor terrace. A second film crew was present, interviewing Tomas about IAAC, urbanism, and the post-carbon era. Time moves differently in this country, perhaps because of the heat. Minutes dally in sighing chat and become hours, feet shuffle slowly toward no destination at all. We savored the slight breeze on the terrace and lost ourselves in conversation about the world we envision, a world where people work because they want to, not because they need to get paid, a world where good ideas are freely shared, not guarded, a world of economic and environmental prosperity.
We did get moving eventually, loading six people into Tomas’s vehicle for the drive to the Green FabLab in Valldaura, a Fab Lab devoted to sustainability. When we were able to steal him away from the other film crew, we engaged Tomas in a short interview. “Green FabLab is producing the tools and the means to actually get a closer dialogue between nature and technology,” Tomas revealed. “We try to use all the materials from the natural resources that we have here, and we are also looking into the next step of fabrication, which is not only to make things, but actually to grow things.”
Our maker friend Eduardo Peire met us at the Green FabLab, and the three of us had the run of the place after Tomas and his crew of researchers, designers, and architects left. We made dinner (cheese pizza topped by fresh garden veggies), gazed at the stars (look, it’s the pizza constellation!), and slept outside though we’d been warned about the wild boars.
In the morning, Eduardo dropped us in Mataró at Can Fugarolas, a creative community devoted to repairing and co-working. A makerspace of sorts drones in the cool basement area, refurbishing gutted autos. A man designs practical garden tools out of old bicycle parts. Corners are rented at low cost to artists, and two cooperatives operate out of a private room. Wouter Tebbins of the Free Knowledge Institute met us at Can Fugarolas and facilitated our tour. Several interesting characters showed us around the space, from the top floor, split between an organized co-working space and a chaotic artists’ studio, to the loft, where people can work on video editing and sound engineering, to the first floor, occupied by acrobats, dancers, and circus folk.
We spent the night at Wouter’s in Arenys de Mar and in the morning, caught a couple trains south of Barcelona to Sitges, where we visited Francisco Sanchez and the Beach Lab, a FabCafe situated right on the Mediterranean beach front. We filmed and interviewed at this very special Lab, which Francisco brought together almost by accident. It started as a website, and when community members started asking where they could find the Beach Lab, Francisco invited them to help him establish it. When the local municipality objected to the concept of Fab Lab, he hauled in a cooler, started selling coffee and beer, and called it a FabCafe–problem solved. He joined the Fab Academy in a very similar fashion, collecting the tools and machines as required by that week’s particular lesson. Flying by the seat of his pants, but never catching fire. We could learn a thing or two from his style.
We returned to FabLab BCN for a second interview with Tomas and then realized that the FabLab House, the project which had grabbed Madison’s interest last year and led to our settling on European Fab Labs as the subject for our documentary, had been right under our noses the whole time. In its second iteration, the FabLab House is under construction right on on la Playa Ciutadella Olimpica. When it’s finished, it will feature solar panels on all outer surfaces, angled to maximize their potential. The building will be a yacht club/restaurant and should generate more energy than it consumes.
We leave Barcelona tomorrow on the early bus. Toño organized a riotous beach picnic yesterday and we experienced some of Barcelona’s famous night life. I sold my Buddha bike today, did my laundry. Our time in Barcelona is a wrap. We’ll be back in the United States in less than two weeks for the much-anticipated Fab11 conference and festival. We may have hopped off our bikes, but we’re still on the road!