Student Designer Comp Winner Report Barcelona 2015

Getting lost in the land of Gaudi… Caesarstone Student Designer Winner’s Report Back

My name is James Mayer and in 2014 during my third year of studying interior design at Tshwane University of Technology, I was fortunate enough to win the Caesarstone Student Designer of the Year award. The lucky recipient of this award is given the amazing opportunity to visit an international design fair of their choice, courtesy of Caesarstone. After much deliberation I decided to attend the Barcelona Design Fair in Barcelona, Spain. This was understandably a very difficult decision to make, but ultimately I chose Barcelona because of its rich body of historical and modern architectural works.

Not knowing at all what to expect, we arrived at Barcelona airport and hopped in a shuttle and were soon transported to a city that is, quite simply, out of this world. I still find it hard to believe I was actually there! The land of Gaudi, with modern glass facades, which are set against a backdrop of gothic architecture, this is a city which unabashedly caters to absolutely every cultural need or taste. The streets are lined with incredible cafes serving the most amazing tapas - and of course, sangria. Just choosing a place to eat was a challenge on its own!

While visiting Sagrada Família, Park Güell, and Casa Batlló, I had to constantly remind myself that I was, in fact, not dreaming or hallucinating, and that I really was able to experience the indescribable atmosphere that emanates from these incredible buildings which I had so greatly admired as a student. ​


As I walked through the historic side alleys of La Rambla, I was able to catch rare glimpses into everyday life in Barcelona, enticed by the vast variety of foods and various products on offer. Places such as the bustling Mercat De La Boquería, a food and goods market situated very close to our hotel, which served the most amazing variety of fresh foods from chorizo to chocolate, soon became one of my favourite spots during the trip.
Because it is very nearly impossible to expect to actually see and experience the city in its entirety during the brief time we were able to spend there, we decided to economise on time, and take a trip on one of the famous “Hop On Hop Off” busses. This was most certainly one of the highlights of the trip as we got to see the entire city in one day.

Nothing will begin to adequately describe the immensity of the experience that was the Barcelona Design Fair itself. While the various events, shows and exhibitions were scattered throughout the city, much of it was centered on the Disseny Hub, a recently-opened design museum, which is an architectural marvel on its own. Visiting the various exhibitions of the fair afforded me the opportunity to engage with a variety of new, exciting and interesting design trends. These ultimately forced me to reflect on, and reconsider my own approaches to design.

We ended off our trip on a catamaran, indulging in a sunset tour of the harbor and savouring the perfection of the atmosphere with a glass of wine and exquisite live music.

When I asked Rene van der Merwe, my lecturer, about her experience, she said, “Barcelona is THE most amazing city I have visited so far! So vibrant and inspiring - never a dull moment, and of course lots of sangria! My highlight by far was the amazing works of Antoni Gaudi. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to see all of them”.

This trip has been invaluable to me. It has renewed my energy and my thirst for great and innovative design (and good sangria). Thanks to Caesarstone and the Barcelona Design Fair, I have begun to approach design differently and look forward to seeing the products of my experiences. 

Download the brief now!​