Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The City of Gaudí

{{Has nacido artista lo sé}}

Barcelona, without a doubt, is the city of Gaudí. His works, his vision, his style, they all permeate the streets and core of Barcelona. You can feel his presence as you walk down Las Ramblas, down the Passeig de Gràcia, around la Plaça de Catalunya, in everything from the benches on the sidewalk, to the patterns on the tiles of the sidewalk pavement, to the curling, fantastical iron streetlamps, to the curving, strange, brightly-colored modernist buildings that he created. I have yet to see all of Gaudí’s creations in Barcelona, but the spectacular ones that I have seen so far—la Sagrada Família, Casa Batlló, Casa Milà, and Parc Güell—have intrigued and amazed me, and I cannot wait to go back to experience them even more.

I pass la Sagrada Família every day on my bus to el Institut Français and each time I see something new and unique in this church that I hadn’t noted before. The meanings of the variances in the styles of the different façades change each time I explore it more. It’s not something I will ever get used to seeing in my daily life; it’s just as special each time I try and find a deeper, personal meaning in this architect’s work.

The interior of Casa Batlló is something I could come back to over and over again to experience the simple beauty and well-planned architecture of the interior passageway around the stairs. It’s magnificently lit by a huge skylight, with windows to almost every room in the house set into the open space below the skylight. The windows grow smaller as you climb towards the skylight, so the upper levels are not overwhelmed by sunlight but the lower levels still receive plenty of natural light, an element so important to Gaudí. Standing in the stairwell is like standing in a column of light and water, with light shades of blue-grey-white in the lower levels that slowly give way to sky blue, then turquoise, then deep cobalt at the very top by the skylight. I could spend an entire day in that stairwell, watching how the shades of blue changed with differing intensities of sunlight.

Gaudí’s incredible use of color, his ability to craft everyday materials, such as wrought iron, into curling, fantastical shapes, his incorporation of a variety of natural shapes and textures, from waves to a lizard’s scales to the curving lines of an old, stunted tree, amazes me. The structured columns and brilliant mosaic tiles of Parc Güell fit perfectly in with the trees and winding paths, the structured elements of the park balanced perfectly against the natural ones. The curving walls and flower-and-vine-like iron terraces of Casa Milà make a large building much less intimidating than it could be and provide a bit of nature-like rest for my eyes amongst so many large, clearly mechanical buildings of the city that surround it.

An architect doesn’t create a piece for himself; he creates it for those who will see it in the future, use it, experience it, each one moved by it in their own unique manner. I feel very lucky to be able to experience the spectacular works of Gaudí over and over to continue to find my personal meaning in his work and explore the nuances of his style.

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