Oftentimes, we associate Barcelona with its football team, especially the powerful line-up beginning with Lionel Messi, Arthur Melo, and Arturo Vidal. For my friends who have visited Barcelona, they remember the city via Barceloneta (Summer Beach) and the 1.2 kms Las Ramblas (the Central Boulevard for many tourists). My other “nerdy” acquaintances think of Placido Domingo and Castellers (a Catalonian tradition involving a group of Catalans, children included, climbing on top of each other to make human castles) every time Barcelona is mentioned. Often, these friends point the 1992 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony as the source of these figures. I am not even sure if Placido Domingo is really from Barcelona. For all we know, he was just invited to sing the theme song of the Summer Olympics that year. Speaking of the Barcelona Olympic Games, my memory of it directs me to the huge Galleon ship that entered the arena and the lighting of the Olympic cauldron by Antonio Rebollo who fired an arrow over the seven-storey cauldron.
Other fascinations I have with Barcelona are the works of Antoni Gaudí, a Catalan Modernist whose works are all over the Catalan region. Of the many works, seven are declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites (inscribed as “Works of Antoni Gaudí”) in 1984 under criteria (i), (ii) and (iv). As a synthesis, the UNESCO page of this WHS indicates that: “Gaudí’s work is an exceptional creative synthesis of several 19th-century artistic schools, such as the Arts and Crafts movement, Symbolism, Expressionism, and Rationalism, and is directly associated with the cultural apogee of Catalonia. Gaudí also presaged and influenced many forms and techniques of 20th-century Modernism.”
The seven works are: The Park Güell, the Palau Güell, the Casa Milà-La Pedrera, the Casa Vicens, the Nativity Façade and the Crypt of the Sagrada Família, the Casa Batlló, and the Crypt of the Colònia Güell. As indicated by UNESCO, these works “reflect an eclectic, very personal style to which Gaudí gave free rein in the field of architecture, as well as in the design of gardens, sculptures, and indeed all the arts.”
Of the seven, I visited five in 2013: The Park Güell, the Palau Güell, the Casa Milà-La Pedrera, the Nativity Façade and the Crypt of the Sagrada Família, and the Casa Batlló.
I learned from my teacher in the humanities (art studies in my university) that Gaudi’s modernism in terms of architecture is characterized by the predominance of the curve over the straight line. At the same time, the details are asymmetrical and very elaborate. Most of the time, scholars and art critic explain that these works use natural and organic motifs. Combining all these characteristics, the architectural motif becomes dynamic, almost “performing.”
On my part, encountering these marvels of architecture felt like I was part of a children’s storybook. Particularly, I felt I was one of the characters in the Grimm Brothers’ Hansel and Gretel. In the designs, especially those in the rooftops of the Palau Güell, the Casa Milà-La Pedrera and the Casa Batlló, Gaudi provided inricate dynamic motifs that perhaps, for a child, appears to be a birthday cake. In fact, I even overheard a kid during my visit asking his mom if he could taste the cake.
In Palau Güell, I remember the crypt – almost terrifying, especially since during my visit, my being alone added some sense of “fear.” My playful mind was imagining the crypt as a kitchen – the witch’s kitchen in the Grimm story. My vivid imagination was even seeing the witch who allured Hansel and Gretel to come in the candyhouse, preparing the chopping board and the huge cookware before finally putting either Hansel or Gretel inside the cookware for her dinner.
From the facade, the interior and the rooftop of the building, I can imagine why Hansel and Gretel were lured to enter the house. It was a huge candyhouse.
I am especially delighted at the rooftop of the casa. The twenty chimneys and central spire are giant lollipops. The central spire is a dome ocovered in original recycled stones – but the magical touch of Gaudi made the stones disappear and what the eyes would see are moving colorful objects, giving the illusion that a young kid is playing with his cane candy.
The Nativity Façade and the Crypt of the Sagrada Família are like pages from a pop-up children’s book. As a matter of fact, the entire Basilica is like a Children’s Bible – a pop-up Bible.
The magic of Park Güell is found in the intricate mosaic details. One may even wonder how Gaudi connected the bits and pieces of the tiles creating beautiful images – both ornamental and functional.
At the top of the park is a terraced area where I personally got a wonderful view of the park. The terrace also overlooks Barcelona City. The terrace is composed of multi-coloured tiled mosaic seats. They are truly breathtaking as they are magical.
I wish to see more of Gaudi’s works!
Yes, there are plans of going back to Barcelona – to Catalan. There are three other WHS in Barcelona alone and an archaeological site in Barcelona’s neighboring city of Taragona.
But more than wanting to experience these other WHS’s, I wish to enjoy the magical Gaudi works once again in order to respect my child within.