Antoni Gaudi: the One Reason to go to Barcelona

A quick look at the altar and ceiling of the Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia cathedral, accompanied by some noise from the ongoing construction at this very strange edifice.

In a strange sort of way, the architecture of Antoni Gaudi reminds me of Cappadocia. In Cappadocia, people used the natural structural forms of their surroundings to construct their homes. In Cappadocia, nature dictated the conical profiles and circular spaces. In Gaudi’s buildings,┬áhe used the constructs of nature to design fanciful buildings that ended up by glorifying the natural, embracing the non-linear.

Our three photo galleries concentrate on three Gaudi landmarks in Barcelona: La Sagrada Familia, the last great cathedral to be constructed in the Roman Catholic world, as yet unfinished; La Pedrera, the meeting of early 20th-century chic with what may have been an incipient back-to-nature trend; and the Park Guell, where fantasy and reality meet in a strange vision of the future, circa 1910.

Each of these projects has a strange and wonderful story to tell. Imagine Gaudi in the midst of designing the Sagrada Familia, telling whoever would listen that although they may hate his buildings, they will remember him forever as a symbol of Barcelona. What was the thought behind Park Guell, designed to be an enclave for the wealthy just outside Barcelona: what kind of market appeal would Gaudi’s fantastical gingerbread houses have had? What did people make of La Pedrera, the weirdly beautiful apartment block in the centre of the city?

In a three-day visit to Barcelona, there just wasn’t enough time to find out. La Sagrada Familia alone is worth a full day, with some time left over to take a good look at the Gaudi museum. The cathedral overwhelms the senses; it would have been better to view it in the morning and then return for the museum after a leisurely lunch, even if it did mean paying a second admission fee. The model house in Park Guell deserved a visit; we didn’t bother because it was covered in scaffolding and we were tired after a day of sightseeing, even though there was another museum inside. Even in La Pedrera, where we did see everything that was open to the public, we were a bit pressed for time. Three days in Barcelona just wasn’t enough; Gaudi alone would have been worth that amount of time.

Although we saw Gaudi’s three major works in Barcelona, there was much more left to explore had we been able to do so. We missed entirely the Casa Battlo and the Palau Guell. We didn’t stop to explore what was advertised as Gaudi’s workshop outside the Catedral in the Barri Gothic.

But what is a tourist to do? Although we had read about Gaudi before we left, nothing prepared us for the reality of it.

Expecting another dark cathedral, we were astonished by the light airiness of La Sagrada Familia. Although it looks like a Klingon concentration camp from the outside, its strange, foreboding structure dominating the urban landscape around it, the interior lifts the spirit with its light-coloured stone and the brilliant colours of its stained glass windows.

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