Gaudi's Barcelona - Part II

by - May 07, 2013

Thank you for your kind comments and tweets on my previous post. They were exactly the kick I needed to write my second and final part of this series on Barcelona. 

Antoni Gaudi. What can I tell you about him? A lot. A sculptor. A blacksmith. A carpenter. A craftsman. An architect with a lot of imagination. A genius who could work wonders with non-living materials like stone, iron and wood. A lot of people dream and plan. Gaudi not only dreamed, he brought life to his dreams.  

Gaudi was born in Reus on June 25, 1852. His father was a coppersmith in the nearby village of Riudoms. He was the youngest of five children and although he left Reus at an early age to go to love in Barcelona, he always kept a strong attachment to the country. Young Antoni loved to go hiking. While he was out in the country and in the mountains, he would take note of everything he saw because he was always eager to learn any lesson nature might have in store for him. 

Later, his long walks in the country and his keen sense of observation made him realize that nature was offering him solutions to the problems he was encountering in his buildings. And so he began to apply to architecture the lessons he had learned from everyday life. (Source)

Sagrida Familia

We had booked for a guided tour of Sagrida Familia online. Although we had seen the outsides of the cathedral through Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour, we wanted to see the inside and learn as much as we could. And a guided tour was the perfect way to do so. 

Before the tour started we went in and took as many photos as we could. I had no idea what stories the tour guide was about to tell so all my photos were just random clicks. But once the tour started and our guide started telling us about Gaudi and how this cathedral came to be, a lot of things started making sense. 

At the entrance all the scenes are based on the incidents from Jesus Christ's life.

As said earlier, Gaudi took a lot of inspiration from nature. When you walk into the cathedral, you have to imagine that you are in a forest. When you do, a lot of his work will start making sense. 

Gaudi didn't just 'take inspiration'. He implemented them in his work. His work was always organic and coherent. His work was not just decorative, but also functional. These columns look like tree trunks with branches - he studied how exactly the branches of a tree support the weight of its crown and applied the same principles to his columns.

The animals you see on the columns have names of Saints. There are four. 

I loved how light played through the stained glass. There are still many windows left to be stained. A lot of work left to do. It might take another 20 years or so for the cathedral to finish.

The Nativity Facade - the only portion of the cathedral Gaudi could finish in his life time. It is so intricate with so many details! There are more than thirty different species of plants corresponding to thirty varieties cultivated in the Holy Land. Plants, animals and geometric figures cover the entire construction; each with its own symbolism. (Source)

There are two pillars standing on turtles.. one is a sea turtle and one land turtle.

After his death, other architects took over and continued based on Gaudi's sketches and notes.
From the cathedral, the tour guide took us to the worker's area where a lot of drawings and details were on exhibition.

This is the original 'string model' Gaudi worked on for 10 years. Some more info from the web - 
"Gaudi devoted ten years of his life to a "hanging chain" model made of weights on strings that would serve as an upside down version of the arched forms he sought. He traced the outline of the church he was designing on a wooden board (1:10 scale), which he then placed on the ceiling of a small house next to the work site. He hung cords from the points where columns were to be placed. Next he hung small sacks filled with pellets, weighing one ten-thousandth part of the weight the arches would have to support, from each catenaric arch formed by the cords.

He photographed the resulting model from various angles, and the exact shape of the church's structure was obtained by turning them upside-down. The weights would reflect the mass of the building when it was completed. And those strings would take a certain shape or form, hanging in "pure tension." Then Gaudi would carefully measure it and photograph it from various angles and turn the photo upside down . . so that he could find exactly where the column should go so that the finished building would act in pure compression. This was extremely time consuming and labor intensive. (Source

Model of the bowl that we saw on the ceiling.

After the tour, we had some lunch (horrible paella to be precise) and took a cab to Parc Guell - another project of Gaudi. It was also Talha's fifth birthday and where better to take him other than a park built by one of the most creative architects to live!

Parc Guell
This was a park that Gaudi built for his patron Guell. It's construction was interrupted by the war and then stopped altogether with the death of Count Guell. It is open to the public and has quite a few Gaudi's work worth seeing.

Gaudi's mosaic work

Casa Battlo (The Batllo House) 

I've edited this photo a lot so that the colors are more visible. It actually looks quite bland in person.

La Pedrera / Casa Mila 

If Gaudi's work hasn't impressed you until now, this building certainly will.

A bit about the building from their official website - 
La Pedrera was built as two apartment blocks with independent entrances linked by two large inner courtyards and a sinuous common façade that conveys the rhythm of the interior. The structure of the house is made of pillars and contains an open plan floor with large openings on the façade. The building marked a break with the architectural language of Gaudí’s work in terms of innovation in both the functional aspects and the constructive and ornamental ones.

Gaudí planned Casa Milà (1906–1912) at the age of fifty-three, when he was at the height of his powers and had found a style of his own independent of any established ones. It turned out to be his last civil work and one of the most innovatory in its functional, constructive and ornamental aspects. Indeed, thanks to his artistic and technical ideas, it has always been considered a breakthrough work, outside the concepts of the time, a rara avis in Modernisme itself and, especially, a work that anticipated the architecture of the 20th century.

Casa Milà is the fourth and final work Gaudí did on Passeig de Gràcia, the main avenue of the city at the time. It linked the old Barcelona, which by then had demolished its walls, with the town of Gràcia.

Although its official denomination is Casa Milà because it was a building initiative of that family, who also took up residence there, it was soon given the nickname ‘La Pedrera’, which alludes ironically, as we have said, to the appearance of the exterior, reminiscent of an open quarry.

Chimneys.. Yes, chimneys. I can't stop thinking of Emirati Burqa whenever I look at them. 

This was designed in the shape of rising smoke. How creative was he?!

Inside view from the terrace. 

Antoni Gaudi died on the 10th of June, 1926 after being knocked over by a tram. An unconventional death of a very unconventional man. 

I hope you found this post informative. Seeing Gaudi's work in person was exhilarating to say the least. If you are a creative soul or not, going through his work and learning about him will give you a rush and leave you stimulated for a long time.

Next post on my agenda is Al Hambra. And then a quick post on Mezquita in Cordoba. Or maybe I should write about all the food we ate in Spain. No, it should be about the Flamenco show we watched. Decisions decisions!

See you soon Insha Allah. 


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  1. Again, I felt like I was actually there, walking with a tour guide's voice following me!! The pictures are beautiful - I had heard that the architecture in Spain was something else altogether, but I didn't realize how out of the world it was!

    1. Thank you Fabida! Yes, I had heard that about the architecture in Spain. But I was totally blown away when I saw it in person!

      Thank you for you encouragement. Means a lot to me. :)


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