You can’t visit Barcelona and not get a glimpse of the works of Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926), the city’s famous architect who defied conventional design but now defines Barcelona’s modernist architecture. Gaudi and his works have become entwined to Barcelona’s identity and inspired cults said to be bigger than Picasso’s. When I first visited Barcelona in the 1990’s, my impression of Gaudi’s works was “eclectic, whimsy, fun.” I appreciated them on a surface but never really comprehended them. During the recent trip, I revisited some of his architectural landmarks with Keith and together we gained deeper understanding and appreciation of his works.
LA SAGRADA FAMILIA
The enormous Basilica of La Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) is Gaudi’s most famous work. Its design described as “neo-gothic-but-not-really” was criticized as not appropriate for a basilica, but today it draws praise and the most number of visitors among monuments throughout Spain. La Sagrada Familia and six other works of Gaudi have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The enormity of the project and dependence on donated funds made the construction of La Sagrada Famila really slow. It was started in 1882 and still is under construction. The projected completion date keeps changing, but the recent projection is 2026.
Gaudi’s designs at first glance may look eclectic, but we learned that if you look closer you find that his designs are actually inspired by nature and full of organic elements. The nave in La Sagrada Familia are dominated by columns that imitate tree-trunks and the patterns of plant growth giving a sense of being under a canopy of magnificent forest.
Design embellishments inspired by shapes of flowers, fruits, seashells and other natural forms can be seen throughout the buildings. Gaudi’s design also allows a generous flow of natural light into the building.
“Nothing in the world has been invented. The act of inventing consists in seeing what God has placed before the eyes of all humanity.” – Gaudi
“A church is the only thing worthy of representing the feelings of a people, for religion is the highest thing in people.” Gaudí
One of Gaudi’s masterpieces is Casa Battlo, a house he restored for a wealthy Gattlo family in the early 1900’s. Its facade is a joyful spectacle full of fantasy, organic elements, symbols and colors.
The interior of the house was designed to give a sense of being under the ocean. The shape of the windows and doos are inspired by waves and the stained glass design are inspired colorful corals and other marine life.
Some of marine allusions on the wall.
The turrets with a cross is said to represent a sword of St. George (patron saint of Catalan) piercing the dragon’s back.
The claws of the dragon function as chimneys of the building.
CASA MILA (also known as CASA PEDRERA)
Casa Mila is said to be an ode to organic, expressionistic architecture. It does not contain a single line. Its design is ahead of its time. Gaudi did not use conventional weight bearing walls in this construction, instead he used steel, arches and pillars to form circular design.
Gaudi designed the arches in Casa Mila based on this upside down model he created.
Catalan industrialist Eusebio Guell commission Gaudi in 1900 to design a private park as part of the residential garden village project for Barcelona’s elite. The housing project failed and the colorful, fanciful park eventually opened to the public in 1922.
The colorful benches and the turret with a cross.