Gaudi’s Barcelona

By Mike McDougall

The native Catalan architect certainly left his mark on this great city and a visit to Barcelona wouldn’t be complete without taking in some of his greatest works. An architect seemingly without contemporaries, Gaudi’s free-flowing post modern creations were decades ahead of his time. The world has taken note of Gaudi and this is reflected in the fact that the properties mentioned below are all UNESCO world heritage sites.

La Pedrera

The real name for this building is in fact, Casa Mila – La Pedrera is a nickname and means “the quarry” in Catalan. When Gaudi built this residence between 1905 and 1907 most Catalan’s at the time lambasted the architect for defacing the city’s skyline, hence the derogatory moniker. Today none of these negative connotations remain and, indeed, city residents view it as one of their proudest landmarks. Standing on the Passeig de Gracia the building does not contain one single straight line, instead following a wave-like, organic form. Highlights include the wild and wonderful wrought iron balconies and the rooftop with its wonderfully original chimney stacks.

Casa Batllo

Gaudi was commissioned to refurbish this building by the owner, Josep Batllo. Taking this brief Gaudi embarked on one of his most daring and easily recognisable designs as he completely transformed the old building. His radical design showed equal disregard for the straight line and he added bone-like balconies and used the “trencadis” technique of using shards of broken tiles to create a shimmering mosaic of colour on the façade, reminiscent of the nearby ocean (a recurrent theme in Gaudi’s work). All of this combined to lend the building a fluid quality. The arched roof has been likened to the back of a dragon and some theorise that the turret and cross, which extend from the roof of the building, are said to represent the sword of St George, plunged into the back of the dragon. Casa Batllo is located close to La Pedrera on the Passeig de Gracia.

Park Guell

Gaudi’s surreal garden complex is located in the Gracia district of the city as well. Originally intended as part of a commercial housing site, the project never came to full fruition due to the financial downturn in the city. Despite this, Park Guell is still one of Gaudi’s most magical creations and displays his versatility. Undulating, organic shapes abound, decorated with the colourful “trencadis” technique – what amazes here is that his designs seem to mould into the natural topography of the landscape. The most famous part of the Park is the distinctive main terrace with its long mosaic benches and the sea-serpent feature, colourfully adorned with shimmering shards of tile. Gaudi’s house, which can be visited within the otherwise free Park for a small cost, exhibits furniture designed by the great man and is worth checking out if you’re a fan of the enigmatic architect.

Sagrada Familia

Without doubt Gaudi’s “magnum opus”, the Sagrada Familia was to be the architect’s unfinished masterpiece. Gaudi took charge of the project in 1885 and continued working on it, even living on site in his latter years, right up until his death over forty years later. A massive project to undertake, Gaudi intended it to be a monument to 20th century architecture with sixteen towers representing the twelve apostles, the four evangelists, the virgin Mary and Christ; the latter was due to tower 170 metres above the city. Tragedy struck in 1926 when Gaudi was run down by a streetcar and killed, halting his work on the project. A further setback struck in 1936 when a fire caused by Civil War bombings claimed his notes, designs and models. Today, over 120 years after the first brick was laid, building continues. The direction that it is to take has been subject to much debate and controversy but Barcelona, and the world, hopes that soon we’ll be able to see the masterpiece finished. There could be no better tribute to one of Catalonia’s favourite sons.

Mike McDougall has five years experience working as a travel writer and marketeer. He is currently working to provide additional content for Babylon-idiomas, a Spanish language school with an excellent presence in Spain and Latin America.


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