One of our goals for our trip to Barcelona was to explore the art and architecture of Antoni Gaudí.
Antoni Gaudí i Cornet was born June 25, 1852 in Reus, in the Catalonian region of Spain. Gaudi is renowned as the leader of Catalan Modernism. A true free-thinker, Gaudi’s original and innovative style of art and architecture is concentrated in Barcelona, including his masterpiece, the Basílica y Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia (Sagrada Familia), which is still under construction today. Gaudi’s passions of religion and nature are reflected in all his works.
With limited time in Barcelona we made use of a tour company to have the service of a English-speaking tour guide and an air-conditioned bus to quickly reach several Gaudí locations.
Our first stop was Casa Milà, better known as La Pedrera (the Quarry) located on Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona. Built between 1906 and 1912, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage in 1984. La Pedrera is a famous example of the Modernista or Catalan Art Nouveau style and one of Gaudí’s most ambitious works. The facade is curving white limestone looking like undulating waves of the ocean with wrought iron balconies invoking an image of the spray at the tips of waves. Gaudí designed the building as well as innovative furniture, fixtures, and textiles.
Our next example of Gaudí’s work involved a half-hour drive from Barcelona to Colònia Güell in the town of Santa Coloma de Cervelló, another UNESCO World Heritage site. Colònia Güell was originally built in 1890 as a self-contained textile mill and “company town” complete with homes, schools, and stores. Gaudí was commissioned to build the town’s church. By 1914, the lower nave of the church had been completed, but the Güell family facing business set-backs were forced to stop funding the construction before the church’s completion. The church, now known as Cripta de la Colònia Güell (Church of Colònia Güell), included many of Gaudí’s architectural innovations being used for the first time. The Church is designed with catenary arches, the outer walls and vaults in the shape of hyperbolic parabolas, decorative broken mosaic tiling called “trencadís”, and the use of re-purposed, recycled, and local natural materials. The bell tower was added later by the towns people who still use the church today.
Our next exploration is considered to be the crowning glory of Gaudí’s achievements, the Basílica y Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia (the Basilica of the Holy Family) or more commonly known simply as Sagrada Familia. The Basilica is a UNESCO World Heritage site and in 2010 Pope Benedict XVI consecrated Sagrada Familia and proclaimed it a minor basilica.
Although the construction of Sagrada Família had already started in 1882, Gaudí took over leadership of the project in 1883, combining Gothic and his own unique curvilinear Catalan Art Nouveau style. Gaudí supervised the construction until his sudden death at age 73 in 1926. Less than 25% of the Basilica was completed at the time of Gaudí’s death. The construction of Sagrada Família’s has progresses slowly due to its reliance solely on private donations and construction was stopped completely during the Spanish Civil War. The current anticipated completion date is 2026, the centennial anniversary of Gaudí’s death.
Tracy and I have wanted to visit Sagrada Família for years and Adam and Liz had studied Sagrada Família in their Spanish classes and were anxious to finally see the Basilica in person. It did not disappoint. Sagrada Família was absolutely astonishing and breathtaking. Its size, unique organic elements, colors, innovative architecture was stunning. Our only regret was our limited time. A person could spend days picking out and appreciating all the details in the Basilica’s design and construction.
On our final day in Barcelona, Adam led us to Parc Güell (Park Güell) in the Gràcia district. We took a quick ride on the subway with a pleasant stop at a Barcelona dog park for Kiara.
Parc Güell was built between 1900 and 1914 by Gaudí’s frequent patron Count Eusebi Güell in an effort to duplicate the English garden city movement for a housing development. Today the park is a public municipal park and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Colorful and whimsical, Gaudí’s work here is reminiscent of a synthesis of Dr. Seuss and Disneyland.
As our whirlwind trip concluded I realized I only shared a small part of our experience in Barcelona. There were beautiful neighborhoods, excellent Sangria (and more Sangria), tapas, Adam and Liz demonstrated amazing Spanish language skills from their college Spanish studies, Kiara the Chihuahua continues to make new friends where ever she goes, Adam and Liz – our vegetarians- found some amazingly delicious vegetarian and Hindu restaurants in the midst of a meat loving culture – Adam even had a chance to try vegetarian paella, and there were many wonderfully friendly people.
We had a taste of Barcelona, which created the desire to return in the future and experience more. There is so much more to see and do in this vibrant city.