Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sunny Days in Barcelona

Nothing Prepares You for Gaudi!

As the sunshine came out to play in Barcelona on Wednesday, we jumped on the open top hop-on, hop-off bus to sightsee from the top deck.

After a day of ducking in and out of the rain, what a revelation.

The View From the Top Deck! 

We found out that by the turn of the century Barcelona was already a pioneer in City planning with its L'Eixample district. This plan created new neighborhoods with beauty, order, and modern access. They also were composed to allow natural light to the street. When compared to the medieval layout and seeming chaos of the Gothic Quarter, the wisdom of the planning of the L'Eixample is stunning. 

The City also has huge parks (the hilltop Montjuc) and plaza's. The very heart of the city is the Plaza Calalunya. it is a lovely open space filled with fountains, families, and lots (and lots) of pigeons.

The Plaza Catalunya

When I was in college one of my best mates was a fellow named Roger. Roger had an architectural hero named Antoni Gaudi. I remember him taking the time to show me some photos of Gaudi Building's and being astonished that anyone ever got hired to design such seemingly bizarre stuff.  

First off Gaudi's work was designed and built mostly in the late 1800's and just at the turn of the 21st century. So (to a college kid who was very much into Mies, Charles Moore, and SOM) Gaudi's era seemed pretty danged old to me. After all, Gaudi was in the thick of the Art Nouveau (or Modernisme) movement (i.e. think dazzling classic Paris "Metro" stops).

But Gaudi's work goes a few train stops past anything anyone else was doing at the time. He designed his buildings in Barcelona with sinuous lines and amazingly complex looking structures. Yet the structures were all based on catenary curves which he determined were extremely stable minimizing structural support. He put lots of mythic imagery into everything he designed. Which included parks, sculpture, gates, and buildings. He had a thing about straight lines, avoiding them whenever possible.

Tuesday on the bus we saw many of Gaudi's buildings and then toured two on Thursday; the stunning Sagrada Familia Cathedral (still actively under construction - strictly using donations over 100 years later), and the last housing project he built before his death - the 1906 Casa Mila apartment block.

The "Silly Sand" Sagrada Familia

The two major facades at each end of the transept of the Sagrada Familia represent the life of Jesus (below - which unfortunately had pretty bad light for photographs) was the only facade completed in Gaudi's lifetime. The other side depicts The Passion (above) and terrors of hell (above) was finalized in a much more stark style.  

The "Gaudi" Side

The interiors of Gaudi's buildings were like nothing I've ever seen. I include two photos, one that shows the structure and one that shows some of the windows.  The scale of the building is huge (the choir loft alone seats 1200 choristers) and the steeples of the cathedral can be seen from almost anywhere in Bareclona. Yet the highest spire is yet to be built!

Gaudi is buried in the Church.

The Stained Glass Windows 

The Interior of the Nave With its Tree-like Columns

Gaudi Determined the Proportions of His Catenary Curves
By Hanging Chains Upside Down 
Noting the Natural Shape They Produced

The progress on the Cathedral over the past twenty years is remarkable, but it still probably won't be completed in my lifetime. If it is, I'm coming back to see it.  

The cathedral has had its setbacks including being burned, sacked, and terribly damaged in the 1930's by the mobs during the Spanish Civil War.

The Casa Mila is vastly different. But it shows remarkable foresight. It has two light wells that allow almost every room in every apartment to be flooded with natural light (even storage rooms). All units were reached by a lift (again 1906!), and it contained an underground garage! All of the rooms in each apartment flow one into another. Its attic even had a use (for servants to dry clothes without unsightly rooftop clothes lines).  

Needless to say it owners have always been from the very privileged classes.   

Casa Mila

The Roof Top
(All the little windows below the roof allowed for needed  ventilation to dry clothes in the attic)

The Entry and Auto Drive Lane to the Basement Garage

Casa Batllo
(Did not get in to tour, just walked by at night)

What an amazing couple of days. Seeing Gaudi's work had a profound impact on me and will undoubtedly affect the way I view the built world for the rest of my life.

Roger was on to something.

Still to come Friday's shots of the Palace of Catalan Music and random shots from Saturday (including some shots of candy stalls at La Bouqeria La Ramblas). 

Roadboy's Travels © 2010

1 comment:

IniquitousFish said...

The Gaudi ceiling is amazing!