Sunday, October 09, 2011

Gaudi City

Casa BatllaYou cannot ignore Gaudi when in Barcelona. His highly imaginative buildings spread all over this city are a magnet for students of architecture and tourists alike. Antoni Gaudi was a Spanish Catalan architect whose highly distinct form of design drove the trend towards Moderisme during the late 19th century. While it was common for architects during that time to combine their passions for architecture and religion into their creations, Gaudi also added his love for nature into the mix.

Casa Batlla
Casa BatllaWhen I stood in front of Casa Batllo, one Gaudi's iconic creations, the first thought that entered my head was, "Goodness, is this what inspired the creators of Aliens or Predator when they built their alien worlds?" Casa Batllo and much of Gaudi's work makes liberal use of structural elements that are inspired from animal and plant life. However, you can see they are brilliantly functional too. Casa Batllo, a multi-storied apartment complex is designed to be airy and well-lit. I couldn't see a straight line anywhere - the entire structure seemed to be designed with organic, wavy curved surfaces.

Casa Batlla
Casa BatllaCasa Mila is another of his biomorphic creations that was commissioned by a rich businessman. The curved, undulating balconies with their wrought iron decorations are completely unconventional. Like Casa Battla, this building too was designed to allow natural lighting and air into all rooms. The terrace tops of both Casa Batllo and Casa Mila are equally sensational with their surrealistic chimneys and ceramic tile work.

Casa MilaAll that walking and climbing stairs had made us hungry. For lunch, we located a nice little tapas place called Madrid-Barcelona close by. Lunch hours begin late in Barcelona and so the restaurant was completely empty at 1 PM. It felt good resting our feet before heading to Gaudi's magnum opus, the Sagrada Familia.

A procession of small plates arrived on our table in quick succession: toasted bread rubbed with tomatoes, black olive croquettes, cone of fried shrimps, scrambled eggs with mushroom and vegetables, clams, fried baby squid, cod with chanterelle honey, Catalan sausage with ratatouille and a chocolate cake. Yes, Barcelona is just the place for foodies!

TapasWe took the Metro to Sagrada Familia. It was still early in the afternoon and the long line of people waiting to get in was disconserting. However, the line moved quickly and we found ourselves inside one of the most awe-inspiring buildings I have ever laid my eyes on. Gaudi probably spent over 40 years of his life working on this structure alone and died before seeing it complete. Now, a group of architects are trying to complete this famous Barcelona landmark with the help of donations.

Sagrada Familia
Sagrada FamiliaSagrada Familia is a church and therefore crammed with figures depicting scenes from the Bible. One side of the exterior is themed with the birth of Christ, while the other with his Crucification. I found the former ugly especially from a distance . However, the detailing is quite fascinating from up close. What I really found magnificent were the interiors of this church. Both the structural design and aesthetics were quite simply breathtaking and out-of-the-world.

Sagrada FamiliaWe ended the day with chilled glasses of Sangria and more tapas. This time with platters of Iberian ham, grilled sardines, shrimps, followed by seafood paella.

More tapas
More tapasOn another day, we took the Metro and then walked up a steep hillside to visit another one of the Gaudi landmarks, Park G├╝ell. This garden complex is build around several interesting architectural elements, one of which is a salamander decorated with ceramic tiles. A flamenco dancer showed off her moves in return for a few coins for the passers-by as school-children giggled and ran around.

Park Guell
Park GuellAfter Gaudi's death in 1926, his work was ignored for a while. Critics regarded them as baroque and excessively imaginative. However, his reputation began to recover during the 50s when Salvador Dali and others championed his works. I suspect his works have inspired more than one creation at Disney's parks and Hollywood movies over the years!

Previous in this series: In Catalan Country
Next in this series: Tasting Ferran Adria

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