Friday, August 31, 2012

Three by Gaudi

Silly Sand Architecture Meets Jules Verne

Anyone with a pulse who visits Barcelona inevitably becomes aware of the built work of architect Antoni Gaudi. Although he has been dead since 1926 his sinuous architecture has come to symbolize the very city he loved.

Deemed as either "a fool or a genius" by his architectural professors, his genius confirms that University training has always been marginally useful to those who refuse to conform to whatever is the pervasive style of their day.

In Gaudi's era Barcelona was a very progressive city. It was embarking on (in my opinion) the most successful experiment in modern city planning ever realized the L'Eixample district.

It also was fully embracing the Modernista or Modernisme movement. Modernisme was a variation of the Art Nouveau where architects synthesized their building and furniture designs with flowers, plant forms and the natural environment.

Today's we live in a world of digital generated modern architecture that features variations of rigid computer generated curves and razor straight lines.

Art nouveau eschewed straight lines and rigid geometry.

Gaudi designed everything using models. Architecture to him was pure sculpture. He integrated mythology in his designs and generously used fragments of broken tile to enable totally organic looks. He started with Modernisme and rode it many bus stops past where anyone else dared to go.

The result is visceral. People love it or hate it.

Gaudi died after being hit by a tram (I'll wager he was probably looking at the detail on some nearby building.) His funeral procession extended for blocks. He was buried in a crypt in the Segrada Familia.

Bust of Antoni Gaudi

During a visit three years ago I visited Gaudi's final project La Predera (Casa Mila) and his most famous commission, the Segrada Familia Cathedral. The cathedral was a dusty construction site.

Only one facade of the cathedral was complete when Gaudi died. The Spanish Civil War stopped construction for decades. So, after more than 100 years of on and off work, progress on the Segrada Familia is rapidly advancing (now 60% complete) and destined for completion by 2026. It may be the only building to earn designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site while still under construction.

In the intervening years since my last visit it has been consecrated as a basilica (instead of a cathedral.) To see the earlier photos of Segrada Familia and Casa Mila revisit my blog posts in February 2010.

Old and New Architectural Icons in Barcelona
From Parc Guell
The Bullet Shaped Agbar Tower (left) and The Segrada Familia (right)

The interior of the basilica is breathtaking and remains faithful to Gaudi's detailed sketches, while addressing modern building codes. The design team, now aided by computers, is still relying heavily upon Gaudi's preferred design method, the use of detailed models.

A Small Part of The Model Shop

The choir loft alone seats 1000. The stained glass is appearing a section at a time. and the altar and baldochino is in place.

The Main Church

The Incredible Ceiling

The Floating Baldochino
(Regrettably, It Leaves the Impression Jesus is Paragliding)

One of the Side Chapels

A Side Aisle
(Stairs to Choir Loft and Tower Beyond)

I'm planning a return trip back in 2026 to see it completed!

The next building we visited was the Casa Baltlo. Gaudi renovated this building from 1904-1906 for a wealthy Barcelona textile industrialist named Josep Baltlo. The building is sandwiched between two other trendsetting buildings buildings, Casa Amatlier and Casa Lleo Morera. These three wild buildings on the exclusive Passeig de Gracia earned the title "Block of Discord".

I have to say I find the "House of Bones" exterior pretty hideous, but the interiors are amazing. They have a Jules Verne sea monster feel to them with almost no straight lines.

The House of Bones

The Entrance

The Baltlo Apartment's Living Rooms

The Swirling Ceiling of the Living Room

A Tile Roof and Gaudi's Trademark Four Point Cross

The last of the three Gaudi masterworks in this post is the garden complex Parc Guell. It was built from 1900 to 1914 and was originally intended to be a fresh air housing development in the (then) barren hills above the city. The "Parc" was laced with a series of curving roadways designed to provide access to triangular shaped building pads.

While Gaudi's entrance, structures (in place when the parc was being built), aquaduct, plaza and famous lizard fountain still exist as a park, no one ever built a house.

If you visit here, be prepared for a significant hike and stair climb (even with the five outdoor escalators the city has installed to minimize ambulance runs for people like me.)

It was a fabulous place to people watch.

It was also a lot of fun to watch the cat and mouse game where the literally hundreds of illegal street venders (who sell anything and everything) all quickly snatch their wares up and dive into the bushes every time the policia drive by. The policia never made any effort to leave their air-conditioned cruisers, so it was all just fun and games.

Failed As a Housing Development for Humans
Succeeds As a Housing Development for Parrots!

The Entrance to Parc Guell

Everyone Mugging with
Gaudi's Famous Lizard 

I have to take a moment to thank Miss M for indulging Roadboy in his Gaudi fest. 

I'll add more photos at home when I'm not fighting Swisscom's lousy hotel upload limits...... 

Next up will be wrap up posts including lunch at Romero's, the Museum of Catalunya, perceptions of mass transit in Madrid, Lisbon, and Barcelona, and a retrospective of some of Barcelona's amazing street art.

Roadboy's Travels © 2012   

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