Gaudi – Barcelona’s architectural demigod

Hot chocolate in Barcelona is quite a different affair – the thick chocolaty liquid just cries out for its inextricably linked twin; churros. Chugging down this welcomed hot delicacy, we took in the undulating curves of Gaudi’s Casa Mila or La Pedrera, (the Stone Quarry), the architects’ greatest contribution to civic architecture. At the time the building departed from conventional styles and as with all masters was mocked by intellectuals of the time.

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Gaudi, born in rural Tarragona was the exponent of the Catalan modernisme movement, similar to Parisian Art Nouveu. My DK Eyewitness Travel Guide describes Gaudi as such…

‘inspired by a nationalistic search for a romantic medieval past, his work was supremely original. His first major achievement was the Casa Vicens in 1888’ – Roger Williams, DK Eyewitness

….which basically translates to ‘he liked the nature’, which had surrounded him since birth. You can see this in the iron work balconies on the Case Mila which looked like ‘seaweed against the wave-like walls of white stone.’

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The so-called House of Bones or Casa Batllo sits as the crown jewel of the Passeig de Gracia – the street for high society. Each building a voyeuristic platform to see and to be seen by the lowly passing public. The Casa Batllo was commissioned by Josep Batllo i Casanovas converting an existing building, Gaudi rework the façade with a pastiche of organic forms, the balconies emanating a skeletal ribcage.

Salvador Dali once described the curving walls and windows as ‘representing waves on a stormy day’. Clearly the goal of the designer was to avoid straight walls completely as the interior rooms curve and undulate, creating the ‘under-the-sea’ feel, from the spiralling stair case to the curved attic, plastered like the inside of a large animal ribcage. The ceilings swirl into elaborate chandeliers, rippling like a pebble dropped in water. A common theory about the building is that the turret and cross, represents the lance of Saint George (patron saint of Catalonia, ), plunged into the tiled roof, the back of the dragon.

Although Gaudi may be Barcelona’s most famous artistic son, artists past and present still pass through its streets searching for inspiration.

‘There is where it all began… There is where I understood how far I could go’ – Picasso

Museum De Picasso now homes many of Picasso’s paintings from his Blue Period,  his first individual style, which were painted between Barcelona and Paris between 1900 to 1904 and includes the ‘Roofs of Barcelona’ 1902, which has recently undergone colour stratification to determine that the painting originally sported a palette beyond the monochromatic blue period and was later altered by the artist. It was Barcelona, driven forward by industry, that exposed Picasso to the modernity and forward thinking avant-garde circles of the Quatre Gats tavern which would stay with him until his dying days.

Finally, in a tenuously art-related link, we refuelled ourselves at Milk Bar & Bistro, highly recommended, queues form for its infamous brunches served with a healthy side of Patatas Bravas. The eggs benedict was, in itself, a feast for the eyes!

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