An exploration of an artist: Barcelona
Our last stop in Spain was one of the most eagerly awaited, for me at least. I have been waiting to see a city that was built on a fascinating and unique cultural and social identity. Unplanned though it was, each day our journey focused on a different artist... Day three was Miro, day two was Dali, but...
Day One: Gaudi
Early in the day we left our hostel and boarded a metro tram to the Temple de la Sagrada Familia. A truly epic work that reflects the time, monetary investment, and community involvement of all important European Churches from the Medieval period, yet all of this was transplanted into the twenty-first century. When I entered, I was surprised by the amount of work already completed - the inner sanctuary is almost completely enclosed. If thousands of people crowed into a church that is not yet complete, you know that you are walking into something truly amazing (sometimes the masses can lead you to the truth). Gaudi can take a hard material and make it soft as clay - making them natural. The ceiling (?firmament?) of massive heavenly stars melt into the tree-like forms of the pillars which seem to be a natural extension themselves from the earth of the church (as if they had always been there waiting for someone to build a roof to connect them).
After an exhaustive exploration, we headed to another one of Gaudi's masterpieces: the Parc Guell. This is where his skill really shined! The sculptural elements, from a distance, appear to be soft as clay, but a quick touch will reveal that they are really created out of stone pieces. In the garden stood the casa that Gaudi once lived in. At first it does not seem to mesh well with the mosaic and organic theme of the rest of the park - with straight lines and commonly pink walls, but after a while the gentle plaster details blurred the line between natural and man-made even further. All around the landscaping seems to be an extension of Gaudi's works and visa versa.
Our final Gaudi stop almost did not happen, but it proved to be the most interesting of all! When I saw that entry to the Casa Batllo cost 16Euro50, I said "No Way!" With some gentle advice from Jennifer (and some hair pulling), I consented and entered a magnificent multi-tenant building with character and passion. The whole theme of the Casa Batllo is the sea - wavy lines and a palate of blue. The facade, in my opinion, looks like Gaudi wanted to represent every aspect of the sea at once - from the placid seafoam on the beach and the deep navy of a stormy night, to the glowing masks of the deep-sea creatures. And this is only the facade. Inside each room has a character all its own. Bringing natural light into every room, ingenious window mechanisms, and multifaceted stained glass doorways complete the seemingly simple casa.
Gaudi is one of those artists who is known, but rarely experienced. He is Barcelona, he is what really pulls this city together. Yet, there could not be a Gaudi (someone so beloved in his own time and given free license to redesign the landscape of the city as he did) without an amazingly driven, yet beautifully relaxed city to be his muse.