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OpenLearn Live: 11th December 2015

Updated Friday, 11th December 2015

The man who shaped Barcelona - lovely, sweeping shapes; why dark matter isn't so weird; and a polar bear gets a check-up. Then more free learning through the day.

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Learning should be fun, and it should be connected with your world. OpenLearn Live explores ways to make that happen. This page will be updated across the day, or you can follow us on Twitter.

Yesterday, we explored Ceres' spot, re-evaluated the Vikings and explored live music in the shadow of the Paris Attacks

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Today's posts

Dark Matter isn't enough

A longer something for you now - a Royal Institution lecture on Dark Matter. If you've got an hour to spare, go full-screen and settle down as Andrew Pontzen explains why dark matter isn't quite as weird as it might first seem.


More on Dark Matter from OpenLearn

Sunday, BBC One: The Hunt

Once again, there's a double dip into the world of The Hunt this Sunday on BBC One. At 4.50pm, there's a second chance to see Race Against Time - predation on the coast. Then, on the other side of Countryfile, Strictly Come Dancing and Antiques Roadshow, we're back at 7 for the final episode: Living With Predators. In the course of which, a polar bear gets a medical check-up:

Find out how to order your free The Hunt poster


Recovery Colleges

Recovery Colleges take a different approach to improving mental health - they're not clincial establishments, and they're not rehabiliation places, either. Jonathan Leach tells you what you need to know:

 An individual with experiences of mental health problems can be engaged in designing and delivering courses and not all of those participating in those courses will have a psychiatric diagnosis. The emphasis within the college is on strengths rather than problems. Each person develops an individual learning plan which guides their journey through their studies.

Read the full article: Five things you might like to know about recovery colleges

A week in Barcelona: Antoni Gaudi

To mark the launch of our new history of Spain on BBC Four, Blood And Gold, we've been spending this week exploring Barcelona. If you've missed any of our pieces, here's what we've covered so far:

To round off our week, we're going to focus on the man who has done more to shape Barcelona - and, in particular, the Barcelona that lives in all our imaginations. Antoni Gaudi.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona Copyright free  image Icon Copyright free: Patrice Audet The Bascilica de la Sagrada Familia

Gaudi wasn't actually born in Barcelona - that much is agreed on, although the neighbouring districts of Reus and Riudoms both claim to be his birthplace. He made the journey of around 100 kilometres to the city in 1868 to study teaching; he remained based in the city for his military service. Poor health kept him out of Spain's fights and allowed him to continue studying, concentrating on architecture. On graduation, Elies Rogent, the director of the Barcelona Architecture School observed that they had " given this academic title either to a fool or a genius. Time will show."

Fortunately for the school, and the city, it turned out to be the latter. 

Gaudi's first work was designing lamposts and newsstands, but his breakthrough came after his work was displayed at the Paris World's Fair in 1878. It might not sound much of a commission - a glass case for a glovemaker to display their work, but it brought Gaudi to the attention of Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi. The pair would forge a strong partnership. Güell gave Gaudi a number of jobs, and his work on these would lead to him being approached to take control of the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família project. This cathedral gave Gaudi a first real chance to put his own approach into a major building, and would go on to be one of seven structures he designed that underpin UNESCO's protection of Barcelona as a World Heritage Site.

The distincitive shapes of Gaudi's work were part intellectually driven - drawing inspiration from the landscape, and moving on from the prevailing Gothic revival style of the time. For Gaudi, Gothic was flawed:

Gothic art is imperfect, only half resolved; it is a style created by the compasses, a formulaic industrial repetition. Its stability depends on constant propping up by the buttresses: it is a defective body held up on crutches. The proof that Gothic works are of deficient plasticity is that they produce their greatest emotional effect when they are mutilated, covered in ivy and lit by the moon.

For Gaudi, buildings were not things to hide away behind foliage; they were a celebration in their own right. And his working style helped shape this as much as his belief about design - he would work with 3D models rather than pen and paper, and happily juxtapose ideas and features that strict rules would say should never mix.

By his death in 1926, Gaudi had seen his vision constructed (or part-constructed - the Sagrada Familia remains unfinished today) and had shaped Barcelona as a modern, avant-garde cityscape. He's not to everyone's tastes - George Orwell detested his Bascilica and half-hoped it would have been razed during the Spanish Civil War while the contemporary architect, Enric Massip, sniffed it was "an artificially inflated space lacking in soul."

But while his work was on a huge scale, and incredibly ambitious, Gaudi himself was less flashy. His quiet approach to life is probably best summed up by the words on his gravestone, in the crypt of his most famous building:

Antoni Gaudí Cornet. From Reus. At the age of 74, a man of exemplary life, and an extraordinary craftsman, the author of this marvelous work, the church, died piously in Barcelona on the tenth day of June 1926; henceforward the ashes of so great a man await the resurrection of the dead. May he rest in peace.

See more from OpenLearn on design

Interested in Spanish language?

See more about Blood And Gold





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