Sitges Miami

Palau Maricel and Deering Estate (Photo: JW Bailly CC BY 4.0)
Palau Maricel and Deering Estate (Photo: JW Bailly CC BY 4.0)


John William ■ 305.348.4100 ■ Office Hours by appointment

This project was made with the help of Vinyet Panyella and Ignasi Domenech Vives of Museus de Sitges and Kim Yantis, Francis Oliver, and Gerry Stecca of the Deering Estate

The cultural exchange between Sitges and Miami is both direct and complex. Charles Deering built a villa, Palau Maricel, in Sitges, Catalonia. He hired Miquel Utrillo to design a structure and curate a collection similar to Cau Ferrat, the house of artist Santiago Ruisnol and gathering place of Catalonian intelligentsia. World War I, however, prevented Deering from regularly visiting Sitges. He, therefore, undertook the construction of the Stone House of the Deering Estate in what is now Miami. The inspiration for the Stone House in Miami was primarily Palau Maricel in Sitges.

Miami and Sitges represent a profound transatlantic cultural melange. An American is inspired by Catalonian culture in Sitges, specifically Cau Ferrat. He builds a villa in Sitges, Palau Maricel, that is intended to emulate local tradition, but also reflect his American identity. The American works with a Catalonian architect and artist to execute this project. That project in Sitges is completed but abandoned. The American then decides to build a new structure in Miami, the Stone House at Deering, which is directly inspired by the multicultural structure he funded in Sitges, Palau Maricel.

This project will offer students a uniquely structured exploration of Spanish and Miamian cultural commonalities and differences. They will have the opportunity to visit both Palau Maricel in Sitges and the Stone House in Miami. Students will search for manifestations of Sitges in Miami, and evidence of American culture in Sitges. Student projects should be based on research, but also reflective.

Each student will explore the Deering Estate in Miami and Museus de Sitges independently. 

The FIU Honors College is interdisciplinary in nature and encourages innovative approaches to course projects. The form of student investigations and reflections can and should be varied: writing (both fiction and non-fiction, prose and poetry), photography, video, and visual art. Students should gather information and impressions in the manner they wish. The focus of each reflection can also be varied, as each student forms a unique perspective. The final product must be submitted digitally. All images and all writing must be original.

Projects will be posted on a shared public Facebook album. This provides students with the opportunity to engage in a community dialogue in regards to their work. This public forum also enables the host institutions access to student reflections. This forum, however, should not impact student perspective or analysis. Your professor and the host institutions are interested in a genuine experience and honest reflection.

All text must be submitted to

Machonis, Peter A., ed. Shatter the Glassy Stare: Implementing Experiential Learning in Higher Education. Birmingham, AL: NCHC, 2008. ISBN 978-0-9796659-2-9

“As an experiential-learning method, CAT makes students step outside their conventional classroom paradigms, and at no time is it easier to do this than when they are experiencing an alienation from what they know. Outside their ordinary habits of thought, the students respond to the call to figure things out for themselves, using the tools of mapping, listening, and observing.” – Joy Ochs

Excerpt from Shatter the Glassy Stare

Strategies: Mapping, Observing, Listening, Reflecting

City as Text™ methodology is based on the concept of active or experiential learning. Participants are split up into small groups with an assigned area of the city/place to explore. They report back for a general discussion at the end of their walkabout and exchange their insights with others who have explored other areas of the same city. The idea is that the sum of everyone’s experience is a better view than just one person or one group doing the same exercise.

There are four basic strategies used in these exercises: mapping, observing, listening, and reflecting.

Mapping: You will want to be able to construct, during and after your explorations, the primary kinds of buildings, points of interest, centers of activity, and transportation routes (by foot, vehicle, or other means). You will want to look for patterns of housing, “traffic” flow, and social activity that may not be apparent on any traditional “map.” Where do people go, how do they get there, and what do they do when they get there?

Observing: You will want to look carefully for the unexpected as well as the expected, for the familiar as well as the new. You will want to notice details of architecture, landscaping, social gathering, clothing, possessions, decoration, signage, and advertising.

Listening: You will want to talk to as many people as you can and to find out from them what matters to them in their daily lives, what they need, what they enjoy, what bothers them, what they appreciate. Strike up conversations everywhere you go. Ask about such matters as: how expensive it is to live there (dropping by a real estate agency could be enlightening), where to find a cheap meal (or a good one or an expensive one), what the local politics are (try to find a local newspaper), what the history of the place is, what the population is like (age, race, class, profession, etc.), what people do to have a good time. In other words, imagine that you are moving to that location and try to find out everything you would need to learn to survive there.

Reflecting: Throughout your explorations, keep in mind that the people you meet, the buildings in which they live and work, the forms of their recreation, their modes of transportation—everything that they are and do—are important components of the environment. They are part of an ecological niche. You want to discover their particular roles in this ecology: how they use it, contribute to it, damage or improve it, and change it. You want to discover not only how, but why they do what they do. Don’t settle for easy answers. Don’t assume you know the answers without doing serious research. Like all good researchers, make sure you are conscious of your own biases and that you investigate them as thoroughly as you investigate the culture you are studying.

Although the subject is specific to Italy study abroad, Stephanie Sepulveda’s Grand Tour Redux project is a model of what a successful project should be. Stephanie’s reflections are personal yet universal and do not shy away from the big ideas and tough questions. Her scope is also interdisciplinary in nature. Review her project here Stephanie Sepulveda’s Grand Tour Redux

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