Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Magic of Gaudi

One of the main attractions in visiting Barcelona, other than the markets, beaches, and weather of course, is the chance to see the architectural works of Antoni Gaudí up close. Revered by many and hated by some, he is undoubtedly one of the most influential and innovative architects ever. His role as one of the leaders of the Modernisme cultural movement contributed greatly to the quest for Catalan national identity, and left a lasting impact on the world of architecture.

A native Catalan himself, much of his work is concentrated in Barcelona and the surrounding areas, giving us the perfect opportunity to explore a number of them. In all, seven of his works are classified as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site entitled the Works of Antoni Gaudí, and we were able to see all but two of them. 

Our pictures were not that great, and we had very few of them due to the fact that it rained nearly all day. So, we have supplemented our pictures with some great ones off the internets for your enhanced viewing pleasure.

We began our day at the most famous of Gaudi's works (and perhaps the most controversial, as you will see), the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, known in English as the Basilica and Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family, and known more commonly as the Sagrada Familia. This was the last of his works and was still three-quarters unfinished at the time of his tragic death in 1926. 

A view of the continuing work on the Sagrada Familia
Some of the amazing details on the facade
It is also the most controversial of his works, with many, including the two of us, feeling that the continued work on the basilica is only continuing to extract dollars from tourists and not to honor the original design and purpose of the structure itself. As Gaudi did not use traditional blueprints, but rather made small models and added details as he went along, it is impossible to fulfill his ideal vision for the structure, and some components seem to clash with his personal style. An example of this is the Passion facade designed by Josep Subirachs, which although a striking piece of sculpture, is very different from Gaudi's traditional style.  

The controversial Subirachs sculpture
In any case, the building is unlike any other you will ever see, and will undoubtedly be amazing if and when it is completed (the target date is 2026, but some of the most challenging parts are still to come). 
 
A projection of the completed church (via)
Our next stop was the Parc Güell. Built between 1900 and 1914 on the hill of El Carmel in Gràcia, the park is a beautiful place to explore and eat a picnic lunch. That is, of course, if its not absolutely pouring when you get there. The park was initially supposed to be a housing development for people wanting to get away from the smoke and pollution of the industrial factories in Barcelona at the time; however, only two houses were ever built, neither of which were designed by Gaudi. He did, however, live in one of the houses, and it now serves as the Gaudi House Museum. 
The striking entrance to the Parc Guell
Despite its economic failure, the park is undoubtedly a success in terms of architectural design. It is full of intricacies of design that could entertain your imagination for days. Perhaps the most striking piece in the park however, is the Main Terrace. A large staircase leads up to a covered open space filled with immense columns and typical Gaudi mosaics. On the terrace itself, a large, undulating, mosaic-covered bench in the likeness of a sea serpent provides visitors with a relaxing break from the heat and one of the best views in the entire city.

Hundreds of columns create a maze under the terrace.

The typical intricate tile mosaics of Gaudi are all over the park.

The serpentine bench is the most striking feature of the park

Local stone and natural elements only serve to blend the park even more into the surrounding nature.
The third stop on our walk led us to one of the most innovative apartment buldings in the world, Casa Milà, better known as La pedrera ("the quarry"). Built in 1914 for couple Roser Segimon and Pere Milà, the building featured an undulating curtain-wall facade that is completely self-supportive. It also had underground parking, separate lifts for servants and residents (only stopping on every second floor to encourage the making of new friends with fellow residents), a breathtaking atrium, and a rooftop terrace now made famous as the home image for StumbleUpon. 

The self-supporting facade of La Pedrera (via)
A closeup of the facade.

The atrium (via)

The now world famous rooftop thanks to StumbleUpon (via)

Characteristic crazy mosaic work on the terrace (via)
Our fourth stop on our tour is perhaps the most extreme example of Gaudi's architectural vision - Casa Battlo. I will just let the pictures do the talking...

Casa Battlo (right) is one of 4 buildings on the "street of discourse"

The chimneys on the roof of the building (via)

The roof is a supposed reference to St. George slaying the dragon (via)
A closeup of the building at night (via)
Even though the style might not be for everyone (I'm looking at you Calli), no one can deny the special talent and vision that Gaudi possessed when it cam to innovative architecture. He began a movement, both architectural and cultural, that still lives on today, and has inspired a generation of architects to look for new ways to be innovative.
 

By Travis Huyghebaert with No comments

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Calli and Travis returned from a four month trip through Europe more excited than ever to hit the open road. Who knows where they'll end up next...

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