A Passion for Design: Barcelona with Demas Rusli

Sponsored by Expedia.

Designer and photographer Demas Rusli (@demas) was once skeptical about solo travel. Living in Australia and working in an architecture firm, his enthusiasm and curiosity about use of color and space were his main sources of inspiration. He didn’t want to travel just to visit a place, or boast about his destination. When our partners at Expedia planned his trip to Barcelona, he discovered that there was another option: inhabiting the places we travel, and having them inhabit us. Even though he went solo, the warm and playful character of Barcelona both intrigued his eye for design and made him feel at home. All in all, it just inspired to keep Demas doing what he was doing, and stay on track — a message we could all use in this moment. We sat down to hear his thoughts on the trip.

Does the color yellow have a specific meaning to you? How does it inform how you view the world?

When I think of the color yellow, I think of warmth: the warmth of the sun as it rises in the morning, the warmth of touching a sunlit concrete wall, and the warmth of the people around me. Yellow is the most noticeable color to the human eye, so I am always drawn towards it in my work as a designer and architect. It can even enhance the positive emotion one feels in a space. All in all, the color yellow brings a sense of happiness and joy to my view of the world.

couple holding hands in sunny alleyway
Warmth.
storefront in barcelona
Character.

What is it about Barcelona that is so magical and what is it about the city that inspires so much creativity?

There is so much variety and contrast throughout the city, from the old and labyrinthine architecture of the Gothic Quarter to the meticulously planned, octagonal layout of the new city grid — it’s as fascinating as it is magical. The streets shift from narrow to wide, and nature is always in close proximity to the man-made, so different forms of inspiration are all around you as you walk through the city. From above, you see that the city forms a uniform grid of octagons, but when you walk around, each octagonal block has its own unique characteristics and architectural identities that fit within the larger context just like a jigsaw puzzle. That level of detail is unlike anything else, for me. 

When thinking about design in Barcelona, it’s almost impossible not to think of Gaudi. In your opinion, how do you feel the city has been shaped by him and what inspiration do you get from his works?

This is definitely true, especially when you look at the urban planning of the city — Gaudi’s works are some of the main attractions, but they’re also some of the most disruptive! The only building that breaks Barcelona’s rigid grid (in shape and also in height) is La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s most impressive and iconic piece of architecture. The organic forms and insane amounts of detail in Gaudi’s work really inspires me to always think outside the box and to always push the boundaries of creativity. It still blows my mind to think that he did all this before CAD (computer-aided design) and any computer technology!

Detail.
crowd outside sagrada familia in barcelona
Icon.

Planning a trip and the logistics behind it can sometimes take away from the whole creative purpose of a trip. How did working with Expedia on planning the details allow you to focus on your work?

Working with Expedia allowed me to be more present and immersed when I was in Barcelona. I was able to spend more time creating and taking photos, because the trip was all ready and planned before I even left Australia. Flights and hotel information were always readily accessible on the app and finding ‘things to do’ when I arrived in Barcelona was super easy as there were so many suggestions and deals.

Barcelona is a popular city for all types of travelers. How do you approach shooting famous sights like the Sagrada Familia and Montserrat in a new way?

When I visit famous sights, I always start by trying to emulate the classic angles, like the photos that I have seen before on the internet. This is usually a good starting point. Then after this, I start to ask myself questions like “How can I make this classic angle better? Or more my own?” and then I finally start walking around and try to look for new angles that I might find interesting. 

The classic shot that I always see online of Sagrada Familia is taken looking up at infamous ceiling. To take this one step further, I decided to shoot it on a super wide lens (12mm) and do a panning panorama to make it extra wide and warped! The colors from the stained glass windows really caught my eye when I was inside and that was my main focus when I was photographing the interior. 

In Montserrat, the funicular going up the steep mountain was one of the highlights for me, and I hadn’t seen any photos of it before. I looked for a symmetrical angle and decided to shoot it with a telephoto lens in order to isolate and capture the steepness of the tracks!

What is your favorite part of Catalonian culture and why?

I think my favorite part of Catalonian culture is that the city comes to life later on in the day (around 10am-11am) and at night the restaurants only open for dinner around 8pm! Being a night owl myself — I’m definitely not a morning person — this is absolutely perfect for me, and something I could get used to. Traveling as a photographer, I’m usually up to beat the crowds and catch the sunrise around 5-6am. The light is best, and it’s really my only option for getting empty streets. When I was in Barcelona, however, I was able to leave the hotel around 8-9am every morning and still be the first one exploring the city!

What are you working on next and where is it taking you?

My main goal is to just keep going with what I am currently doing. I have now been working part-time in an architectural office in Sydney for the past year (I was working full-time there previously for 4 years) and I also take photos/travel as much as I can on the side. It has been an unexpected journey so far, full of surprises — I really don’t know what or where photography will take me, so I just have to take it one day at a time. I think this year my aim will be to focus on trying to make more Youtube videos and become more comfortable in front of the camera, as well as always trying to push my own boundaries and creativity.

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