Saturday, November 29, 2014

Gettin' Gaudí with it in Barcelona

Ken and I recently took our first trip to Barcelona, and (spoiler alert) it will no way be our last. Barcelona is vibrant, delicious, gorgeous, and, at least in late November, comfortable in terms of climate and crowds. Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing some highlights of our trip.

Gaudí is everywhere in Barcelona, from its lamposts to its skyline. I can think of no other city so influenced by one architect. This trip, we decide to visit just two Gaudí sites, Park Güell and La Pedrera, leaving more to savor next time.

Antoni Gaudí i Cornet (1852-1926) is the most renown and prolific architect of the Modernisme (Catalan Art Nouveau) style. His work was heavily inspired by nature. Unlike other architects, Gaudí would rarely draw his ideas on paper; instead he would build three-dimensional models.

Gaudi would construct forms of wire that
he would hang over a mirror ...
 ... and appear as the right-side-up
form in its reflection. 

Artist and benefactor met in 1878 when a window display that Gaudí had designed for a glove store at the Universal Exhibition in Paris caught the fancy of entrepreneur Eusebi Güell. Over the next quarter century, Güell would commission Gaudí to design a variety of projects including his home, immodestly named Palau Güell, and a church for his textile workers, unsurprisingly called Cólonia Güell.

In 1900, Gaudí began designing an estate for well-off families on a large Barcelona property belonging to Güell, known as Muntanya Pelada (bare mountain). Güell wanted the estate to be solely residential, and he directed the architect to restrict the heights of the houses, so as not to block views of the sea or sunlight.

The result, as seen today is Park Güell, a unique (and I very rarely use that word) celebration of Gaudí art and architecture.

Park Güell

Overlooking the main entrance to Park Güell
It's mild but overcast when we arrive at Park Güell, about a 15-minute walk from our hotel in the Graciá neighborhood. After exploring the Portico of the Washerwoman, a series of buttresses woven through the mountainside, we stop to rest in Nature Square, the esplanade once known as Teatre Grec. The square is partly dug into the mountain and is held up by 86 massive columns soaring up from the Hypostyle Room below. 

Ken stands in the Portico of the Washerwoman at Park Güell.

Domed ceiling of the Hypostyle Room at Park Güell

The undulating bench ringing the square was planned by Josep Maria Jupol and is made from concrete clad with tile-shard mossaic and pieces of pottery, the style called trencadís, much favored by Gaudí.

The undulating bench ringing Nature Square
at Park Güell is composed of mosaic tile shards
on a concrete form.
We take a break from people-watching to admire
a pair of Park Güell residents.

We make our way down the Monumental Flight of Steps, passing gargoyles, a snake-head fountain, and a brightly colored salamander. Ken people-watches outside while I visit the gift shop that is housed in the estate's Porter's Lodge.

Ken (center) enjoys the view from circular
bench at the top of the Monumental Flight of Steps. 

This colorful mosaic salamander greets visitors
at the main entrance to Park Güell.

Casa Milá

Chimneys atop La Pedrera

Standing on the roof terrace of  La Pedrera, the mansion commissioned by industrialist Pere Milá and his wife Roser Segimón, (the building is informally known as Casa Milá), we are clearly in the midst of a masterpiece. We wander among the undulating shapes, some are chimneys, others are arches framing sites off in the distance: Mount Tibadabo or La Sagrada Família, Gaudí's (still unfinished) masterpiece.

An arch frames MountsTibadabo on the roof
of La Perdrera. 

Shards of champagne bottles were used to
cap off this structure on the rooftop of La Perdrera.

Inside we explore some of the architect's models and display cases that contain Gaudí's inspirations from nature. We descend another floor and walk through rooms decorated much as they were in the early 1900s.

Model of La Sagrada Família

Gaudí was inspired by forms in nature, such as this
snake skeleton.

A reproduction of the kitchen dining area in La Perdrera

On our way down  stairs, we pass the doors of private apartments. How cool would it be to live at La Pedrera?

Although we decide to postpone visits to La Sagrada Família and Casa Batlló, two more of seven Gaudí works in and around Barcelona that are classified as UNESCO World Heritage sites, I include some exterior photos here.
Work continues on La Sagrada Família.

La Sagrada Família detail

La Sagrada Família detail

La Sagrada Família detail
Casa Batlló

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