Sunday, May 29, 2016

Gaudí in Barcelona - Sagrada Família and Beyond

One of the most famous sites in Barcelona is without question the Sagrada Família. It's a Roman Catholic church that in 2010 was proclaimed a minor basilica by the Pope. Its proper name is actually Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família.

Construction started in 1882 and in 1883 Antoni Gaudí became involved. 

Gaudí is without a doubt, the most famous architect in Barcelona. His buildings and other things he has made are throughout Barcelona. He changed the look of Barcelona, inspired other architects and designers to kick it up a notch, and his work has helped draw in the tourists. 

Personally, I like what he's done that I've seen and I now have grandiose thoughts of my own about being able to copy some small things in my own backyard. Details to follow at the end of the post.

But back to the Sagrada Família. Construction began and moved along with private donations. By the time Gaudí died in 1926 the church was only about 15-25% complete. 

Construction continued until 1936 when the Spanish Civil War interrupted progress. The anarchists took control of the church. They destroyed most of Gaudí's models for the church and his workshop. Fortunately, they had a great lookout from a small bridge that spans two towers, so in the end they spared the church itself, though being anarchists, they must have been a bit torn about leaving it standing.

After the Spanish Civil War, work on the church was slow to resume -- mostly because most of the models were destroyed and it took some time to determine what Gaudí had in mind for the rest of the church. But work did resume and has continued on. 

The church is now over 70% finished. The towers (there will be 18 in all) are to be finished in 2026 on the centennial of Gaudí's death. The  final decorative bits should be done sometime around 2030 or 2032.

My favourite lunchtime view.

The first place we stayed in Barcelona was just a few blocks from the church. It was amazing to walk past it every single day, and to have a view of it from our favourite pizzeria. Without doubt, every time we walked by it, we noticed something new. I started out by saying I could appreciate what was being done, but I wasn't a huge fan. Ten days later, it had worked some magic on me and I loved it.

We did go inside the church and it did not disappoint. You've seen plenty of stained glass photos from me already, but the stained glass here - installed towards the end of 2015 - is absolutely spectacular.  Really, it's indescribable and my photos just don't do it justice.

The light cast from the windows changes throughout the day as the sun moves across the sky. The east side has most the cool greens and blues. 

The west side is warmer with the reds and oranges.

The floor is absolutely awash in coloured light. Where the colours meet, they mix like paint and form the new colour. So at a certain time of the day, the reds and the blues join on the floor making it purple. I didn't get a good photo of the purple; we visited at the wrong time of day for that.

Had I been alone I am quite certain I would have spent the better part of the day watching the colours and the light change.

What I hadn't realized is that the one side of the church is the Nativity (the melting gingerbread house side) 

 and the other is the Passion of Christ. 

So much to look at on each side, and every little thing means something.

The Passion side is newer and still under construction. The white pillars above are the same stone as the rest of the church, they're just newer and haven't weathered to the brown colour yet.

The front of the church is under construction, as are the remaining towers. Eventually, there will be a large park in front of the church. Right now there is a street and a whole lot of buildings. With any luck I'll be back to see the finished product.

But the church is just one of Gaudí's pieces of work you can see - there are many more to see in Barcelona. 

We saw just a few, and even then, only the outside of some of the other Gaudí buildings because they are not inexpensive to enter. Over $30 per adult. While it would have been great to see inside some of these places, it starts to add up for a family of four, so we were happy to make due with the fabulous outsides alone.

But, we did visit Park Güell because it was fairly inexpensive compared to the other places to visit. The park is named after Güell, one of the rich people who hired Gaudí. The Park was to be a fancy place in the style of an English garden city for rich people to live, but it just never took off. 

Now you can see the are the main gate and gate houses:

the dragon that you see everywhere, including in an animated form on subway ads (I think it may have also been used during the 1992 Olympics):

and a fabulous curvy bench. 

There are of course other interesting bits in the park, but those were my favourites.

The one building I'd love to go in is the Casa Batlló. Gaudí didn't build this place, just renovate it. There are a variety of stories about what the facade represents, but I like to think it's for Saint George (patron saint of Barcelona) and that it's a the dragon on the roof. George is said to have slain a dragon, saved a princess thereby converting the citizens to Christianity.

We were in Barcelona for St. George's Day and the balconies of Casa Battló were draped with roses because roses are given to women on St. George's Day. I'll likely mention St. George's Day again in a separate Barcelona post. But take a look at that crowd in front of Casa Battló on St. George's Day. It spread out onto the street squishing traffic from four lanes down to just two.

The Star Wars building, Casa Milà, was designed entirely by Gaudí. Señora Milà was sadly, not a fan. Nor were many others in Barcelona who called it "the quarry". However, now that Gaudï is all the rage, the building is recognized as an architectural wonder. 

Plus the roof is out of this world! The chimney stacks look a bit like Star Wars' storm troopers. The Star Wars fans in this home do not agree, but I see the resemblence.

You might think that these houses were mighty big for one family, and you'd be right. Typically the family home owner would reside on the second floor (with the 1st being the ground floor) and maybe the third as well. The second floor is typically called the "preferential" floor and is easy to spot because it has the fancier balcony and windows, and is sometimes a bit taller than the other floors.

The floors where the family didn't reside consisted of apartments for other people. Some of the apartments in Casa Milà continue to be rent controlled from the 1950s! The apartment can pass down through the family and the 1950s rent continues! Or so said one of our tour guides. That's just so crazy though I think I believe it.

There are other bits and pieces of Gaudí's work in Barcelona, including his first and only commission for the City of Barcelona - lamp posts in a square that went way over budget.

Gaudí was madly talented and quirky, to put it nicely. But he has put Barcelona on the architectural map.

He's also made me want to buy a bunch of tile, break it to pieces, pour some concrete and create something fabulous in the back yard, much like what we saw in Park Güell. I won't necessarily do a dragon or lizard, or curved seating area (yet?), but I'm sure I could muster up something cool and small. Though, I somehow suspect that this might be something that   is much easier to do in my head than in its actual execution. I'll keep you posted.

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