October 16, 2004

More Gaudi where that came from

The Sagrada Familia was so inspiring, we spent the next day touring the city of more of Gaudi's innovative works. Our first stop was Park Guell. The fascinating park sits atop a hill on the outskirts of Barcelona. Construction began in the early 1900's with the intention of creating a sort of micro-city - containing houses and stores, as well as walking trails, gardens and recreational areas:

Park Entrance(d)

The project was a bit of a failure on the earlier aspects, as only 2 of the 62 parcels were ever sold. And one of those was the piece bought by Gaudi and in which he built a home and lived for 20 years, until he moved into the Sagrada Familia during its construction.

Park Guell is a beautifully landscaped park, complete with the whimsical architectural detail Gaudi is known for:

Tourist Trap

The three major pieces worth noting are the 'Room of Columns' with its 'false vault keystones' and beautiful mosiac collage "saucers" adorning the ceiling -

Wavey Gravey

...the meandering park bench that runs the entire perimeter of its rooftop -

Janet, benched

...and the dragon/lizard adorning the psychedelically landscaped entrance:

In typical Gaudi fashion the bench is beautifully "waved" around the rooftop. I like to say Gaudi couldn't draw a straight line (although Jim doesn't like it when I do). He does such an amazing job at making the eye move - his lines undulate, swerve, curve, dip, slip, plunge, bend, extend. Thus creating surreal form into structures we are used to seeing corners and lines.

After leaving Park Guell, we headed across town to a few of Gaudi's residential projects: Casa Batllo and Casa Mila.

Gaudi worked on Casa Batllo at the same time he was building Park Guell. It was a renovation project in which Gaudi completely transformed both the front and rear facade:

Casa Battlo

There are a number of interpretations: that it is a poetic vision of the sea --

Looks like Jaws?

-- a depection of scenes from carnival or, the most popular one, that it is a representation of St. George (patron saint of Catalonia) defeating 'evil' as represented by a dragon (a common Gaudi symbol).

The Cross (George) and the Dragon (Rooftop)

Gaudi also designed most of the interior of the building, including furnishings and lighting. Unfortunately, the first two floors - which are usually opened to the public - were closed for a private function. The rest of the building is still used a private residence.

Just down the street from Casa Batllo is Casa Mila. Nicknamed 'the Pedrera' meaning stone quarry, Casa Mila was also a private residence. Constructed from scratch in 1905, the building was intended to house the owner's family on the ground floor and rent out apartment units in the upper floor.

Would that all office buildings were this cool!

Although it looks like one big building, Gaudi actually built two - which adjoin to form the central patio in the interior. Again, we see Gaudi's use of sweeping lines in both the front facade, as well as in the central patio courtyard. Gaudi used many innovative techniques during the construction of Casa Mila, including the use of pillars to provide support for the building. There are no weight-bearing walls, thus allowing autonomous floor plans for the apartments on the upper floors.

Trippy interior

The building today is used as headquarters for 'Fundacio de la Caixa de Catalunya,' which restored the building in 1986. It also houses a Gaudi museum. Visitors are also able to walk through a 4th floor apartment furnished with interior pieces from the early 19th century.

But the highlight of the tour is definitely a walk around the rooftop. With its display of sinuous shapes, it gives the appearance of a sculpture garden.:

Jim liked the vent covers because they reminded him of Storm Troopers

To the contrary, the 'sculptures' actually have a structural purpose: they are all either chimneys, venilation shafts or service staircases. Once again, Gaudi proves the attention is in the details :)

Janet and Jim in Wonderland

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