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Gaudí’s Barcelona

By Sean Mahon

Posted: 27th January 2015 16:43

Very rarely has one man defined a city quite so much as Antoni Gaudí.  Practically every inch of Barcelona boasts of his creative genius, and countless parks, palaces, cathedrals and houses stand as a living testament to one of Spain’s greatest architects.

So who was Gaudí? Born in the Catalan region of Spain in 1852, Gaudí had a deep appreciation for his homeland and perhaps tellingly, a belief that all Mediterranean people were gifted with creativity.  Though suffering from ill health as a child, he spent much time outdoors studying nature.  He spent the majority of his compulsory military service on sick leave, enabling him to continue his studies.  A student at the Llotja School and the Barcelona Higher School of Architecture, he also studied French, history, economics and philosophy.  He graduated in 1878; though he possessed a distinct artistic flair, he was an average student, failing most of his courses.  Upon his graduation his tutor is said to have remarked: “We have given this academic title either to a fool or a genius.  Time will show.”

 It quickly became clear that Gaudí was no fool.  He began to carve a name for himself working on several smaller projects and displayed works at the Paris World’s Fair of 1878, before he broke out and made the district of Eixample his personal canvas.  Gaudí died in 1926, but not before leaving his lasting mark on Barcelona.

Casa Batlló

It is impossible to walk down Eixample’s Passeig de Gracia Boulevard without stopping to stare at this remarkable apartment block.  Designed by Gaudí in 1904, the building is a testament of the architect’s complete contempt for straight lines – irregular windows, oddly shaped balconies and a flowing roof give the sense that Casa Batlló is almost alive.  In fact, the arched roof is often likened to the back of a dragon, and the tiled façade, fading from golden orange to blue, provides a raw, animalistic quality. 

Casa Mila

Known to locals as La Pedrera (‘The Quarry’) Casa Mila, also located on Passeig de Gracia, may not be as colourful as Casa Batlló, but it is no less striking.  Completed between 1906-1910, it was (and perhaps still is!) a controversial design – the bold stone façade and wrought iron decoration look like a series of rippling waves, again creating the impression the building has a life of its own.  Architecturally, it is considered a true innovation, as the façade is entirely self-supporting. 

Sagrada Família

Perhaps Gaudí‘s most famous construction Is located right in the heart of Barcelona.  Having started in 1882, construction continues to this day on the Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family – more commonly known as the Sagrada Família.  Looking up at the intricately carved façades and towering spires, it is impossible not to be struck by the ambition of the project and the complexity of its design.  Having worked on the project right up until his death in 1926, Gaudí viewed the Sagrada Família as an unending labour of love

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