Spain may not be one of the leading economies in Europe, however, culturally speaking they have produced some of the best artists in the last century. Antoni Gaudí was one of them. Born in Riudoms in 1852, Gaudí would create some of Barcelona’s most iconic buildings and become one of the most influential architects of all time. Young Gaudí moved to the capital of Catalonia when he was just 16 to pursuit a career in architecture. The story goes that when Gaudí completed his degree, his teacher said: “We have given this academic title either to a fool or a genius. Time will show.” Gaudí proved his teacher right by living up to the prophecy and allowing time to declare him the genius we admire today. He is the epitome of the city and his works feature on any travel guide so if you’re headed to Barcelona, here are our suggestions:
The Lampposts of Plaça Reial
Located in the heart of the Gothic Quarter, the lampposts of Plaça Reial, were Gaudi’s first commissioned work. The architect believed that lampposts of this sort were extremely important, particularly in Mediterranean cities so that people could gather at night during the summer months. The lampposts blend perfectly with the neoclassical façade as well as the palm trees that add a certain tropical look to the square. Although these may not be one of Gaudi’s most important works, they are certainly a good example of the architect’s creative mind.
On number 43 of the Passeig de Gràcia you will find Casa Batlló, a modernist building erected in 1877 which was later renovated by Antoni Gaudí. The Casa Batlló is covered in what the Catalan people call trencadís, the broken ceramic tiles which became the architect’s trademark. Experts say that Gaudí redesigned the building according to the legend of Saint George and the Dragon. You will find several motifs alluding to the tale such as roof which resembles the mythical creature and the sword of Saint George also to be found near the top. From June to September the Casa Batlló runs the Magical Nights Festival on the Dragon Roof Terrace, with drinks, live music and art, all combined in one place.
Casa Milà (La Pedrera)
Just a few blocks up the road, more precisely on number 92 sits La Pedrera, or Casa Milà if you prefer, one of Gaudí’s most iconic buildings. This amazing structure was built in 1906 and by the time it was finished, most people disapproved. This type of response was certainly an indicator that Gaudí was delivering something completely new breaking with old traditions and established conventions. The building is remarkably bizarre with a wave shaped façade, tree like columns and floral ornaments that rise all the way to the logically impossible rooftop overlooking the avenue. Definitely not to be missed.
Located on the north part of the city, Park Güell is another example of Gaudi’s naturalistic influences. The park was commissioned by a wealthy industrialist named Eusebi Güell and it was built between 1900 and 1914. At the entrance you will find the famous salamander, a symbol of the city also known as el drac, and once you get to the terrace, you will be rewarded with magnificent views of Montjuic, the Sagrada Família and the Mapfre Tower. The wave shaped seating is also one of the park’s highlights, covered in thousands of trencadís, the colourful mosaic shards. Gaudí himself lived in a house inside the park which would later become The Gaudí House Museum where many of his original works are displayed.
At the Carrer de les Carolines you will find Casa Vicens which was commissioned by Manuel Vicens in 1878. Gaudí kept reinvented himself to create his own style, mixing Moorish and Art Nouveau, using different types of materials such as tiles and iron to create unique works of art. This house was purchased by a private company which is planning to open it to the public in the end of 2016, although dates are not yet confirmed.
Gaudí left his project unfinished when he was fatally hit by a passing tram. The construction began in 1882 and after more than 100 years, is still ongoing. The Sagrada Família has sparked more controversy than any other building in the city of Barcelona. George Orwell, the famous English author said that it was one of the “most hideous buildings” he had ever seen. Salvador Dali, another artist emerged from Catalonia described it as “terrifying and edible beauty”. The Sagrada Família mixes Gothic, Art Nouveau and Gaudí’s naturalistic influences. His work on the Nativity façade is listed under the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and remains his most famous work.
So have fun and make the most out of your Barcelona experience. If you wish to find out more about Gaudí and the city of Barcelona, we would like to recommend the following:
Books: Gaudí: una novela
Written by Spanish author Mario Lacruz
A fictional work loosely based on Gaudi’s life by spanish author Mario Lacruz.
(2004, Barcelona, ediciones B, colección Ficcionario, No. 223)
Books: Gaudí: The Complete Buildings
The complete works of Antoni Gaudí with text and large illustrations.
Author: Rainer Zerbst
Films: L’Auberge Espagnole (Pot Luck)
A Spanish and French production that follows the life of graduate student Xavier who travels to Barcelona for a life changing experience.
Starring Audrey Tatou and Romain Duris. Written and directed by Cédric Klapisch.