Monday, June 7, 2010


Just returned from a week and a half in Catalonia.  It was my first time and now all I want is go back and see more of Spain.  We spent a few days in Barcelona first, which is a fantastic city.  There are three major high tide marks of architectural accomplishment in Barcelona.  The most recent is actually current, with works by Jean Nouvel, Herzog & de Meuron, Norman Foster, huge new swaths of redeveloped neighborhoods, and a rare acceptance of the new and strange that can often be found lacking in other European cities like Paris; contemporary Barcelona is refreshing.  The first of these waves was the medieval, and the center of town is a maze of high Gothic wonder.  The middle period, was the most dramatic of all: the Modernista.  Antonio Gaudi was the arbiter, and the Sagrata Familia was his masterpiece.

This unfinished wonder is a tangle of over the top, intricate insanity, set to be completed by 2020... or 2030.  Or 40.  New architects and sculptors and builders are completing the stone wedding cake based on Gaudi's original plans.

Below the church, in the crypt, is the museum.  Here are old and new plaster models, original drawings and this incredible structural model.  It was made by Gaudi to determine the load and arch shape of the church.  In the model, gravity pulls the structure into shape.  In reality, the same shape distributes the load from the top down.  Truly innovative.

The model shop.  When I was studying architectural history, the Modernista movement, and Art Nouveau in general, seemed a little heavy handed and "decorative" and shallow.  Seeing it in reality was totally different.  This building is a real marvel.

Here are some beautiful renderings done in the early 80's based on Gaudi's plans.  They show the current state of the church (slightly darker set of towers) along with the future construction yet to come.  Note the glowing giant cross with beams of light at the top, and the huge flaming candelabra at the entrance.

Spectacular renderings.

After the church we had lunch at Bar Mut.  Above, tomato toast and Jamon Iberico.  The pigs munch on acorns beneath oak trees, and it gives the meat a rich, lean, nutty flavor.

Buffalo mozzarella with spring onions.

Octopus and sunchoke.

Steak with foie gras.

Another Gaudi creation, the Casa Mila.

And here is the Casa Batllo.

A fireplace niche in the library.

Pictures of the interior as it appeared originally.  My favorite is that light fixture.

Plaster sculpted ceiling fixtures.

The attic.

While the house was beautiful, I think Gaudi's architecture really works best for more dramatic, soaring, ecclesiastical structures.  These houses were incredible, and the craftsmanship exceptional... but something still came off as strange and dated.  It felt a little like looking at an earlier century's version of the Memphis collective.

1 comment:

  1. I love Barcelona!!! Cant wait to see more photos! xo Kate