Europe, Spain

Gaudí treasures in Barcelona

No Comments 15 November 2010

Gaudí treasures in Barcelona

As an architecture buff, the Monkey enjoyed the chance to explore some of the utterly unique works of the great Antoni Gaudí during two separate trips to Barcelona, in 1996 and 2001-2.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain
The Monkey gets moody in this black and white shot at the Temple of the Sagrada Familia. Of all Barcelona’s monumental architecture, nothing approaches the scale or splendor of the Sagrada Familia. It is the masterwork of the eccentric Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, although the project for a massive church on this site in the Eixample was originally designed by Francisco de Paula de Villar in 1877. When Villar resigned in 1883, Gaudí took over design and construction duties on the project, constrained to working around the foundations laid by Villar.

Blending Gothic lines and ornamentation with his own fanciful Art Nouveau decorative impulses, organic flourishes and engineering genius into a style almost unique to this project, Gaudí exceeded anything imaginable at that time or since. Relying on donations to build the church, construction frequently became bogged down when funds ran low. His plan for three main portals—as opposed to the standard one—also complicated matters, but had symbolic significance as they represented the birth, death and resurrection of Christ. The outbreak of World War I also caused further delays. Gaudí became obsessed with the project, refusing to take on any other work after 1908 and living on site in a small study in the crypt until his untimely death under the wheels of a streetcar in 1926. Construction continues on the Sagrada Familia to this very day. The other photos have further details on this masterwork.

Gaudí lizard, Parc Güell, Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain
Another of Gaudí‘s whimsical creations that has become an unofficial symbol of Barcelona is this mosaic tile lizard (or is he a dragon?) in Parc Güell. Parc Güell was another of Gaudí‘s more ambitious projects, intended to be a 60-family English-style garden village employing Gaudí‘s Art Nouveau designs. A wealthy patron, Eusebi Güell, commissioned the residential development around 1900, but little of it was completed and construction ground to a halt with the outbreak of World War I. Still, a number of fairytale houses and pavilions were built, and when Barcelona’s city government took control of the development in 1923, it converted the space to a public park. Now, visitors come by the thousands each day to marvel at Parc Güell and its fantastic views over the city.

Sagrada Familia construction, Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain
This photo shows the Monkey overseeing ongoing construction on the Sagrada Familia. Since Gaudí‘s death, the project has gone on according to his plans, though not without controversy. In 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, Gaudí‘s study and most of his plan were burned (either by shelling or by ransacking anarchists, depending on whose account you believe). After the war, a team of architects studied what was left of Gaudí‘s instructions, which fortunately included some surviving scale models of parts the structure. These formed the basis of continued work on the Sagrada Familia. From the 1950s to the 1970s, the second set of spires and portal were completed. The Catalan sculptor Josep Subirachs was drafted to adorn the Passion Portal with sculptures depicting the suffering and death of Christ; his works are much more angular and modern than Gaudí‘s own on the Nativity Portal (in the top photo here).

The crypt of the Sagrada Familia contains a worthwhile museum where some of the scale models that continue to inform the construction are on view. While visiting the crypt, the Monkey also had the somewhat surreal experience of hearing Kraftwerk’s “Spacelab” playing in one of the museum’s displays.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain
The Monkey scaled the interior of the Sagrada Familia’s to get a close-up look at the Passion Portal’s spires. Faintly resembling dripped towers of wet sand, the eight current spires, which soar to 100 meters in height, are only part of Gaudí‘s overall plan. Four more spires like these will bring the total to 12, representing the Apostles. Another four spires will be added, symbolizing the Four Evangelists. Finally, a further two spires will soar over the others, one for the Virgin Mary and another for Christ. The latter is intended to thrust out of the center and climb to a dizzying 170 meters!

It’s unclear how long the construction will go on, but the Monkey intends to return to the completed work if it happens in his and his photographer’s lifetime.

Palau Güell roof, Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain
Another Güell family commission for Gaudí was their residence just off the Ramblas in the city center. The Palau Güell, built from 1886 to 1888, lives up to its billing as a palace. Features include internal spiral ramps to the horse stable, a great hall complete with pipe organ, and this rooftop terrace where the Monkey took in the bizarrely shaped chimneys.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain
A truncated shot of Gaudí‘s Nativity Portal of the Sagrada Familia. This comes from the Monkey’s first trip to Barcelona, in 1996. The other shots are from 2001 and 2002.

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In 2006, Spain ranked 21st in the UNDP Human Development Index and 9th in total GDP, with a per capita GDP of $28,107.74. Public debt accounts for 36.2 percent of total GDP, while 19.8 percent of Spaniards are beneath the poverty line.

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Monkey's name:

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Fun fact:

The Spanish maintain a dispute over British control of Gibraltar, which they contend is an extension of the Spanish territory. And yet the Spanish remain unwilling to cede two similar territories across the Straits of Gibraltar, Ceuta and Melilla, to the Moroccans. All three territories are proof that old empires die hard.

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