Buenos Aires has always been my top city to visit after reading the novels of Jorge Luis Borges during my high school days in Korea. Because of his portraits about the city in the 1940s, I created fantasies in my mind about traveling to the opposite side of the earth. Luckily, PARALLAXploration gave me an opportunity to explore that wonderland.
However, as I moved into downtown Buenos Aires from the international airport, I felt strange. I saw old buildings, dirty and empty streets. It looked like everything had stopped when the economic crisis hit Argentina.
It wasn’t until two days later that I realized that I had been wandering the streets of BA during the weekend of National Sovereignty Day, which explains why the streets were quiet – people were escaping the city for the long weekend. BA turned out to be a city filled with a vibrant atmosphere.
Fashionable people crowded the streets and soccer chants sounded here and there. BA has great art museums, many parrillas (steak restaurants), local fashion-brand shops and dessert cafes. The Feria de San Telmo (street market) and La Boca bring together artwork, jewelry and hand-made crafts alongside colorful buildings and tango performances.
Also, I found a mélange of European culture and South American culture. Like Europeans, people in BA enjoy café culture and give a kiss on the cheek, but most shops stay open late (9pm). As I interacted with local people and learned about their culture, my trip became the trip of my imagination – and more. I was able to overcome the initial bad impression.
After experiencing the city, I flew to the El Calfate which is the portal to Glacier Perito Moreno. On the way to the glacier by bus and boat, I was not able to accurately gauge how huge the iceberg is (it’s 19 miles long). It felt unreal – like a picture. When I reached the edge of the iceberg, I went on a mini-trek for 2 hours. It was a very different experience from seeing it from afar. Walking on top of the glacier, I saw countless cracks, drains, and small ponds – all whites and blues. I took a lot of photos to memorize the vast landscape but I could not capture whole moments such as the sound of calving (the thunderous echo when ice breaks off the glacier) or the feeling of walking on ice.
As a designer, I have always been focused on creating visually appealing work, first and foremost. Through this trip, I was inspired by the power of the multi-sensory experience (interacting with people, hearing sounds, the feeling of ice underfoot). Through this trip, I began to question the philosophy I’ve held throughout my career – that design is paramount. Now I wonder whether it’s appropriate, on occasion, to let experiential benefits – like usability or clarity – win out over small sacrifices in the design.
Click here to see photos from my PARALLAXploration!