The brilliance of Gaudi

Trip Start Dec 04, 2006
Trip End Aug 05, 2007

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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Nathan here: A trip to Barcelona, I think, would be somewhat incomplete without having examined some of its modern or modernist architecture. Now, to be clear, I am neither an expert nor a big fan of modern art or architecture. Having said that though, it is incredibly easy to appreciate some of what Barcelona has to offer. Tara and I made a special effort to see some of the more popular works created by the architect Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926).

Despite knowing absolutely nothing about architecture, I appreciated Gaudi´s work for two key reasons. First, Gaudi is on record as saying that he took his creative inspiration from nature. Looking at some of the extraordinary spaces he created, one can easily see/make the links to the organic world. Second, he was way ahead of his time. Said another way, if these buldings were built today, they would still be considered quite modern and yet many are more than a hundred years old. Unbelievable.

So I encourage those interested to check out the links for the following sites that we visited. They´re sure to be a whole lot more informative than me..

Casa Batllo, the first one we visited, was completed in 1906 ( It represents a renovation to an existing building. It has a very impressive facade that, I suppose, an architect would describe as organic. Sadly, the extraordinary interior just couldn´t be captured well with the camera. People will simply have to visit our house and check out the coffee book...

Tara here. Casa Mila was the second of his sights that we took in. Usually called La Pedrera (the Stone Quarry), this building is considered Gaudi´s biggest contribution to civic architecture as it was designed as an eight-floor apartment block around two circular court yards. The audio guide at this particular site explained how each room incorporated as much natural light as possible with only servants´ rooms going without natural light. Gaudi really is amazing and so different from anything else we have seen.

Our next stop was Parc Güell. Eusebio Güell commissioned a housing project in 1910 for Antoni Gaudi to design and develop. The mini garden city/private housing estate was to sit on a hillside above Barcelona. Due to a lack of funds (and perhaps confidence in the architect at this point in his life) only two houses were ever built. The park has since been taken over by the city and is a beautiful and free park for all to visit. It affords great views over Barcelona from what Gaudi had planned to be common areas in the garden city. One of the most famous elements of this park is a mosaic wall/bench which snakes along an upper square in the park. Tourists and locals alike hang out here as it is just such a gorgeous space.

Our final Gaudi venue was, not surprisingly, his grandest - the Sagrada Familia ( Commissioned in 1883, it became Gaudi´s passion. In fact, he would later devote 16 years of his life exclusively to its contruction. Unfortunately, he died tragically in 1926. Work continues to this day to complete the church according to Gaudi´s vision. There is a tremendous amount of symbolism in the carvings that are found on the two main facades. One facade is devoted to the nativity, while the passion facade is devoted to the suffering and execution of Christ. Again, I encourage those interested to check the web link or, better yet, visit the site first hand if ever in Barcelona.

Tara here: Another one of the sights we really enjoyed in Barcelona was the Museu d´historia de la Ciutat ( The main attraction of the museu lies underground. Entire streets and squares of old Barcelona (Barcino) are accessible via walkways suspended over the ruins of Roman Barcelona. They are the world´s most extensive and complete subterranean Roman ruins in the world. The site only cost 5euro to get in and included an excellent audio guide. As an aside, the Spanish really do tourist sites and audio guides well. Each time we have used an audio guide (they are often included in entry fees) they have always been informative and interesting. Many thumbs up for the Museu and other audio guided sites.

Stay tuned for more pics and a story about Nathan being pulled on stage to perform as a Busker. Í was cursed.

So, after having visited 21 countries over 7 months and 2 days, we´re returning to Ottawa for a brief pit stop. Then, en´shallah, we´re off to Lima, Peru on July 9th. Stay tuned... N&T.
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