My weekend trip to Barcelona includes an architecturally inspired day of Catalan Modernism as I explored the works of Antoni Gaudí.
During my travels to Spain this past weekend, my friends and I explored some of the most interesting and unique buildings in all of Europe. It has been said that the works of Antoni Gaudí are beyond classification for they defy the norms of almost every style of architecture currently studied. In my view the only way of classifying these buildings is by simply calling them “Gaudís”.
As with almost every artist, Gaudí went through different periods of artistic expression throughout his life. Most of his works in Barcelona are the the naturalist period, when it is said he perfected his individual style. In his buildings, Gaudí saught to mimic the structures present in the natural world. Gaudí’s buildings are said to resemble the cavernous caves of Montserrat, the lattice-like structure of pine cones and reeds, the human skeletal structure, the list goes on and on.
Our first stop of Gaudí’s work was La Casa Milà, better known as La Pedrera (1906–1910), commissioned by Pere Milà i Camps. This was by far my favorite, there are many interpretations but I side with the idea that the building is meant to resemble the ocean (the flowing limestone facade), with seaweed balconies (made from re purposed cast iron) and lookouts perched atop a grand vessel (funny little statues of stone and tile). The building consists of five floors, plus a loft (made entirely of catenary arches, which were absolutely beautiful) and the roof, as well as two, beautifully painted interior courtyards. Unfortunately the picutres do not give this artwork justice, but I think they portray a fraction of the awesomeness of La Casa Milà.
Next on the list was Parc Güell (1900–1914), Gaudí’s main new project at the beginning of the 20th century. The park’s history is pretty interesting, being quite the inventor, Gaudí decided to auction off sections of the park in the style of old English estates. Unfortunately, the idea didn’t catch on and only one plot was sold. Bit that did not stop Gaudí from constructing the park entrance, service areas, and scattered walkways. The best way to describe it is as a Gaudí theme park. But I will direct readers to the video below which does a far better job at depicting these truly outrageous works of art:
Both the Casa Milà and Parc Güell were granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1984. According to the organization:
- The work of Antoni Gaudí represents an exceptional and outstanding creative contribution to the development of architecture and building technology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
- Gaudí’s work exhibits an important interchange of values closely associated with the cultural and artistic currents of his time, as represented in el Modernisme of Catalonia. It anticipated and influenced many of the forms and techniques that were relevant to the development of modern construction in the 20th century.
- Gaudí’s work represents a series of outstanding examples of the building typology in the architecture of the early 20th century, residential as well as public, to the development of which he made a significant and creative contribution.
For me, his works do much more then represent an emerging and inventive form of architecture. These creations display not only the creativity of mankind but also our desire to mimic the awesomeness of nature within our own creations. Gaudí, I would venture, has been one of the most skilled humans to attempt this impossible feat. The organic and biometric forms which have been integrated into and dominate his buildings are what have drawn many towards his architecture.