Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Most Beautiful Building Ever: Sagrada Familia

New York has the Statue of Liberty. Paris has the Eiffel Tower. Barcelona has the Sagrada Familia.

Let me start off by saying that I am not a churchy person. I've seen enough famous cathedrals in Europe to know that once you've seen one, you've seem them all. In my opinion, they are dim, gaudy, pretentious, and often a bit creepy. But a church built by Antoni Gaudí?

In designing Sagrada Familia ("Sacred Family"), Gaudí wanted to build a church that would relay the story of the Bible in stone. Although I respect the story told by the Sagrada Familia, what I appreciate most about Sagrada is that it is a tribute to nature. As explained in The Fantastical Pedrera and The Nautically Radical Casa Batlló, Gaudí incorporated nature into his buildings. Although many architectural inventions are attributed to Gaudí, he is famous for saying, "Nothing is invented, for it is written in nature first."

The columns of Sagrada Familia are tree trunks
in a large stone forest.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Nautically Radical Casa Batlló

I toured another of Gaudí's creations. This one, Casa Batlló, was just as impressive as The Fantastical La Pedrera -- perhaps even moreso given the nautical theme that flowed throughout the entire home.

The roof of Casa Batlló is topped with a dragon's spine, formed
by colorful overlapping tiles and irrdescently shimmering mosiacs.

Casa Batlló is one of three modernist buildings on one block of Barcelona's Passeig de Gràcia. The three buildings were renovated at the turn of the century, between 1898 and 1906. The houses, which are testament to the range of Modernist and Art Nouveau styles from the era, give the block the nickname "Block of Discord."

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Fantastical La Pedrera

Never before has architecture whisked me away to a fantasy world!

Two days ago, I visited La Pedrera. Located in the L'Eixample neighborhood of Barcelona, La Pedrera is the creation of the brilliant architect Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926). I always thought Frank Lloyd Wright was a genius. But Gaudí has ten times the genius of Wright. Seven of Gaudí's creations have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Although many of Wright's creations have been nominated for the title, none of his buildings have received the prestigious status.

Ventilation towers on the roof of La Pedrera.
Though you can make whatever you want of these sculptures (ahem...phalluses),
they are typically referred to as "helmeted sentinels."

Gaudí believed that architecture is art and that art is best inspired by nature. Gaudí is famous for saying, "The great book, always open and which we should make an effort to read, is that of Nature."

Though Gaudí designed for function, his architecture is full of imagination. His buildings are modern by today's standards, and so one can only imagine how radical they seemed when they were built more than one hundred years ago. When La Pedrera was first built, residents of the neighborhood were so appalled they thought its presence would lower their property values. If only they could have foreseen the true value La Pedrera!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

A Stormy Situation in Barcelona

It's stormy here in Barcelona. Though the skies are perfectly clear, the political situation is not.

A few days before leaving for Spain, I heard something on NPR about a vote for independence in Catalonia. My ears perked up. In just a few days, I would be traveling to Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia.

If you don't have any interest in Catalonia's political situation, I'll give you the 30-second elevator version and you can call it quits for this blog post: The vote for Catalonian independence, which was held four days before I would arrive in Spain, was deemed illegal. Temporary hell broke loose, and more than 800 people were injured. 

Posters I have seen displayed around Barcelona.
"Democracy! If you do not go, they win."
(Note: This poster is in Catalan -- not Spanish.)

For a slightly longer version of the story, read on.