Visiting Park Güell in Barcelona today I hit a moment of overwhelm. It came about not due to the inspirational architecture. Nor the endless row of vendors trying to sell inexpensive sunglasses, jewelry, and water. My sense of overwhelm developed due to the number of people. From the moment we left the metro station to walk the twenty minutes towards the park we were passing or being passed by those coming or going towards this major attraction. Once inside the park gates there were moments that I knew I was missing an extraordinary view but could only focus on finding a route through the sea of people climbing, descending, and standing on the main stair case. Tourist swarmed next to the famous lizard/dragon statue (depending on which guidebook you read) waiting to take their picture with this landmark. It was a free-for-all and one was lucky to get their picture with just two or three other strangers in the frame. When we finally got into the higher reaches of the park and found more solitude and paths that took us into equally compelling designs and landscapes. I found myself appreciating the moment far more with space to take-in the design and consider its context.
What is the right balance between number of people attending an event and their ability to appreciate the experience? How do we find the blend between maximizing participation and maintaining a unique experience? How many students fit in a learning environment? How many patrons can reasonably fill an art gallery and view the artwork? How many people can you stay connected with at a personal level without resorting to mass email and communication techniques?