Saturday, 23 June 2012

Barcelona, Spain May, 2012

This was our 2nd visit to Barcelona and, this time, we focused most of our energy on the architecture of Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926).  It is widely accepted that the city became well-known thanks to the accolades awarded to him and his glorious designs.  We explored 3 works on this trip:  Parc Guell, Casa Battlo, and La Sagrada Familia.  Each has distinct elements that immediately identify it as a Gaudi piece - saturated colour, a lack of straight lines and corners, and a profound interest in nature.

Parc Guell

Parc Guell was originally designed to be a private residential development but when the plan didn't sell, the city purchased the land and created a beautiful public park.  At its top level is a gathering place with tile-covered benches overlooking the whole area.  These multi-coloured shards were collected by Gaudi from various ceramics factories around the city and used to provide seating for the residents.  These tiles remain today glistening in the sun on the seats of the Parc Guell for everyone to enjoy!

Wander down to the park's lower entrance and you encounter one of its most spectacular attractions.  You hear the tinkling of the water before you see the fountain, made of the same tiles as above.  Surrounded by lush greenery and petit flowers, a lizard-like figure dominates the scene.  There is much speculation about its identity.  Many believe its design is based on George's dragon from the myth of old.

Casa Battlo

Casa Battlo, in the Eixample district, is one of the private residences designed by Gaudi.  I don't think that there is a straight line or proper corner in the whole house.  Creaking floorboards lead you to a light-filled room, rose-colored from the glass spirals inset in the windows.  The brass door handles look almost fluid as they seem to fit the shape of your hand.  The ceramic pieces here are brilliant colours, fully created for this space, unlike the "found" shards used in the park.  This is the place often referred to as the "house of bones" due to the unusual shapes on its facade.

La Sagrada Familia

Gaudi's life's work, lasting far longer than his life, is the incredible La Sagrada Familia.  This Catholic church is in its 129th year of construction, expected to be completed in 2026.  This labour of love has three distinct areas which have been designed by different artists over the years but they contain the essence of what Gaudi originally laid out.  The front facade evokes the stories of Christ's birth and childhood as well as the love of nature that Gaudi possessed.  For instance, the base of one of the columns sits on the back of a large turtle.  The sanctuary itself is full of light and has a Gothic feel.  Where classic Gothic style uses columns and arches for stability, Gaudi mirrors this by using tree trunks for columns and branches and leaves for arches.  The back side is post-modern in style - much more angular and dark in mood.  As these scenes depict the torture and crucifixion of Christ, the tone seems appropriate.

As this was our second visit to Barcelona, my husband was quite excited about returning to this amazing structure.  Unfortunately, his behaviour can be just a tad over the top.

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