Welcome to Gaudi's Barcelona! Architects, artists, engineers, travellers and vagabonds alike, make their way to the Catalonian capital in a sort of 'design pilgrimage', visiting the surreal moderisme (Spain's version of Art Nouveau) masterpieces of architect, Antoni Gaudi! I visited four of his most prominent works and was blown away by his incorporation of natural forms in his building's structure and aesthetics. I've listed below a little bit of these 'unearthly' buildings history, and why you must-see them when visiting Barcelona!
1. What was designed to become one of Barcelona's most luxurious private communities, today stands as its most beloved public park. In 1890 Gaudí's patron, the industrialist Eusebi Güell, instructed the architect to build a garden city, in which nature and housing were unified in one common architectural language. Visitors today may find the space to be mystical, charming, and bewildering, however its original purpose failed. The plans included sixty villas, only two buildings were built, along with the communities roads and extensive park. Gaudi actually lived on-site, in one of the two villas (which was not designed by him), his former residence was opened as a museum in 1963. In 1984, the park was included in the UNESCO list of cultural heritage.
Park Güell's colonnaded structures twist and turn and appear to grow from the ground; Gaudi blurs what is built and what is organic, what is new and what is ancient, it is a powerful juxtaposition to explore and photograph.
The park includes a large sight-seeing terrace which is supported by its network of columns, it overlooks the city of Barcelona, and includes a curved bench wall that acts as a balustrade flowing around it. Mosaics, ceramic shards, and iron are all used to create the terrace balustrade, it's a favorite space amongst Barcelonians and the comfort of Gaudi's benches are remarkable.
2. With its undulating façade and surrealist sculptural roof, Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Milà appears more organic than artificial, as if it were some urban mountain-scape in the heart of Barcelona's bourgeois residential area, the Eixample. Constructed between 1906 - 1912, Casa Mila was designed as a residential building, today it is the headquarters of the Catalunya-La Pedrera Foundation and houses a cultural centre. Barcelonians nicknamed the building during its construction, 'La Pedrera', the quarry, for its stone-like facade. Casa Milà was commissioned by the industrialist Pere Milà i and Rosario Segimon. The idea was to erect a family home, but also with apartments for rent; it is located on Passeig de Gràcia, Spain's equivalent to New York’s Fifth Avenue and Paris’s Champs-Élysées.
On the roof is the famous sculpture terrace, this space is like no other and seems quite psychedelic but their is a practicality behind the madness. It houses skylights, emergency stairs, fans, and chimneys, but each function’s envelope takes on a bewildering sculptural quality which has become synonomous with the building itself.
3. Casa Batlló was a preexisting classical structure that was purchased by the textile industrialist Josep Batlló in 1900. He hired Gaudi in 1904 to design his home; at first he requested to tear down the existing building and construct a completely new build-out, however Gaudí convinced Josep that a renovation was sufficient. Gaudi created a totally new facade, added new levels within the building and opened a lightwell to bring natural light. What resulted in his design is an otherworldly experience, every surface is curved, embellished and seems to come alive, quite literally now that visitors can opt to purchase a 3-d experience while touring the building. Like Casa Mila or 'La Pedrera', Casa Batlló has been nicknamed for its exterior aesthetics and is called by Barcelonians, Casa dels ossos, 'House of Bones'.
It's hard to say which Gaudi structure I personally love the most, they're individually their own unique universes, however the facade treatment of Casa Batlló is probably my favorite of all four, it is colorful yet playfully morbid, appearing to be the scales and skeletons of dragons and even the bone structure of humans. Gaudi plays with what is the actuality of his design and the viewer is left in fascinating wonderment. What do you see in this structure? Share your comments at the bottom of the page.
La Sagrada Family
4. The Grand Dame of the Gaudi Collection, The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família is a monumental triumph of architecture. The basilica has been under construction from 1882 until 2028! Stepping inside this religious space, one is taken aback by the flooding of colour, stained glass tells the story of so many biblical scriptures and as the sun shines upon these moments, the interior spaces light up like a rainbow! Regardless of faith, or a lack-there-of it is clear to see this is a work of higher human consciousness. Though a long ways from being completed, La Sagrada Familia was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
Once completed, La Sagrada will be the tallest religious building in all of Europe, the central tower in the middle will reach 170 meters tall. Currently of the 18 towers to be built, 8 have been completed. 12 of the towers will represent the apostles, four of them will represent the evangelists, one will be designated for the Virgin Mary, and of course the last one, the highest one in the middle, will represent Jesus Christ. La Sagrada is home to the tomb of Antoni Gaudí, who was unfortunately killed a few days after being hit by a tram.
All in all, I suggest seeing his buildings as I have listed, starting with Guell to Sagrada, is a succession of Guadi's genius, each structure more grandiose than the next. Enjoy, and if you have any questions related to Gaudi's Barcelona, leave a comment at the bottom of the page.
Hi I'm Quinn, creator of Traveller's Bazaar. I'm an architectural designer on a mission to inform, inspire and help travellers like you, plan the trip(s) of a lifetime. Thanks for visiting!