It was a couple of years ago before I finally made it there, when a great friend of mine suggested a trip together. It was definitely worth the wait! I’ve been reminiscing about our trip and looking forward to more travel post Covid-19, so I decided to write about what I learned about Gaudi while I was in Barcelona. Enjoy!
1. Gaudi was much more than a mosaic artist.
When you come across Gaudi’s work it’s often his mosaics that are at the forefront – certainly, being a mosaic artist, that’s what I always loved and knew him for. But Gaudi was much more than a brilliant mosaic artist – he was a skilled architect, a committed vegetarian and dedicated Catholic.
2. He thought there was no place for straight lines in architecture.
Gaudi is quoted as saying, “There are no straight lines or sharp corners in nature. Therefore, buildings must have no straight lines or sharp corners.” Casa Batlló, a residential building renovated by Gaudi, is a wonderful example of his inspirations from nature. I was captivated by its curves and the way Gaudi clearly thought through every detail, including the best use of natural light through skylights and the central tiled patios. Even though its legendary façade and roof were obscured by scaffolding when we visited, we still got to enjoy glimpse of the “Trencadís” (pique assiette or decoration with broken tiles) that Gaudi is so famous for. Trencadís was one of Gaudi’s favourite techniques because its inherent recycling, sustainability and aesthetic value.
3. Parc Güell wasn’t originally supposed to be a park at all.
Gaudi had originally planned to build a modern housing estate away from the busy city below. A Guardian’s house and a model house were built first, neither designed by Gaudi, to try to attract investment but the plan failed. Gaudi bought one of the houses and lived there until his death. It’s now Casa Museu Gaudí (the Gaudi House Museum). The site was instead converted into a public park. It’s home to Gaudi’s infamous salamander, which is also known as “el drac” (or the dragon). Given my love of exterior mosaics, this park was definitely one of the highlights of my trip. There are gorgeous details to be found at every turn – from the colonnaded paths and birds nest columns on the terrace walls, to the multi-coloured, curved Trencadís seats. Breathtakingly gorgeous!
4. Gaudi was highly skilled at communicating his vision and delivering it through others.
On a visit to the Gaudi Exhibition Centre, I learned about how Gaudi touched others with his vision. Given an increasing number of commissions, Gaudi had to rely on his team to be able to work on multiple projects simultaneously. Many architects who worked under him went on to become prominent in the field. His vision lives on even beyond his life. He knew that the Sagrada Familia project would never be completed in his lifetime so, for the latter years of his life, he focused on building 3D models to illustrate his vision. Since then, a legacy of architects and artisans have continued to bring his vision to life. The Sagrada Familia’s construction started in 1882 and is due to be completed in 2026, the 100 year anniversary of Gaudi’s death.
5. Even the façades of the Sagrada Familia are works of art in their own right.
There are three main façades. The Nativity Façade, which was the only one constructed under Gaudi’s watch, is highly detailed and dedicated to the birth of Jesus. Its doors are covered in metal leaves, flowers and insects. The Passion Façade is simpler and dedicated to the sins of men. And the Glory Façade, which is still under construction, is the main façade and represents the road to God. The tree-like columns and stained glass windows inside the Sagrada Familia are also worth a mention for their craftsmanship and beauty.
6. While Gaudi was a strong proponent of Catalan culture, he refused to enter politics.
Gaudi was in favour of Catalan culture, but he was reluctant to become politically active in campaigning for the region’s independence. He did, however, take part in some related protests with his fellow Catalans. At a protest against the banning of the Catalan language by the dictator Primo de Rivera, he was beaten by the police, arrested, and spent a few days in prison.
7. The way Gaudi died lays bare some of society’s ills.
On his way to the church he visited daily, Gaudi was hit by a tram and knocked unconscious. People assumed he was a beggar, so he was left there for some time, until eventually some passers-by took him to hospital in a taxi where he received basic care. He died three days later, on 10 June 1926, at the age of 73. His body is buried in the underground crypt of the Sagrada Familia.
My friend and I plan to visit again – maybe once the Sagrada Familia is complete!
All images taken by me except for the first image – the front of Casa Batllo, which is courtesy of pcsfish from Pixabay.