Spanish Genius- Gaudi
Gaudi lived and created his masterpieces in Barcelona for the most part of his life. The great master was inspired by the Gothic Quarter that stretches through the city and reveals its secrets to the wondering eye. It is believed that Gaudi was a follower of a famous Catalan Gothic style. This particular Spanish style was derived from the French Gothic style, with wide naves and two side aisles, elaborate geometrical designs and stylizations are used for the decoration of these buildings. The Santa Eulalia and the holy cross is certainly impressive, it stands 79 meters long, 25 meters wide and 26 meters high, but when compared to the Sagrada Familia, one of Gaudi's most famous works, it looks like a bungalow next to an office block. The Temple de la Sagrada Familia was hard to miss as I turned the corner from the Metro station, my jaw dropped in awe of such a huge structure. Its sheer size is certainly one of its shock elements, the jelly tot like shapes on the top of each of the four visible towers seemed capable of gazing at the whole city. Gaudi began work on this amazing church on November 3rd 1883 and dedicated the rest of his life to this on going project, towards the end of his life he worked solely on the Sagrada Familia even living on the site. He calculated it would take two hundred years to complete, and is still in the process of being built today with a fleet of men erecting brick by brick the most fantastic piece of architecture I have ever seen.
In 1936 civil war engulfed Spain once again and an anti-clerical mob broke into the church and destroyed the paper and the scale models. Architect Lluis Bonet reconstructed the models used as a guide for today's Sagrada Familia yet this decision to keep constructing Gaudi's dream is under heavy criticism from the public and other architects. Sculptures have been added to the cathedral of images of Christ's crucifixion, and the soldiers who patrolled Christ at this time. Antoni de Moragas, a Barcelona architect said that he "would leave it exactly as Gaudi left it as a testimony of something that could have been, but was not," And an English tourist was amazed at the amount of money being poured into the project and said "This place has no value in a practical sense, but it is fantastic". The project is costing millions each year and being funded by donations and public entrance fees, I personally think that it is well worth it, even just as an architectural challenge.
I didn't appreciate it at the time every section of the building is symbolically thought out for example the four front towers are dedicated to the four apostles Barnabas, Simon, Jude and Matthew. In the Nativity Facade three doorways are present, to represent Faith, Hope and Charity, each of the gateways are lavishly decorated by elegant sculptures and brightly coloured stained glass in geometric patterns. These patterns echoed the ones used in the sculptural decoration of the building, bright mosaics add vivid colour and emphasize the thought that has gone into the design.
No photograph I have seen has done the Sagrada Familia justice, the atmosphere it creates is pleasantly stomach churning, I felt as if I was dreaming. The texture created on all the walls is fantastic, the whole structure is very active with a variety of styles, yet I can not help drawing a connection with the business of nature and how all of Gaudi's works seem more organic than most architects work.
The Casa Mila looks like an underwater reef made of massive rough stone, with individual ironwork on each of the balconies, in the form of underwater vegetation. The building only has external stone walls the internal segregation is done by using thin partitions. It has a central courtyard just as Islamic houses, an inner sanctum, yet I don't think that the feature works on such a large scale, but it represents the building and nature co-existing. The five floors are each unique with one completely restored to its original form, open to the public. This spectacular apartment building has one unique feature, a roof top garden, with a view of the city and huge granite chimney and ventilation stacks. The chimneys are based on Gaudi's theories behind geometric shapes, each one unique and most are functional. They look like warriors poised on guard mounted on various level's, each constructed in the same material but decorated using different coloured tiles, patterns and methods.
Gaudi studied geometric shapes and found they related very closely to the forms found in nature. Nature seems to be able to capture an element of beauty in nearly everything it creates, yet is still able to be functional, Gaudi recognized this and drew parallels to the effect he was trying to have on architecture. This was exercised in many of his projects, both structurally and for embellishment purposes. An example of structural naturalism is the branching pillars in the Sagrada Familia, loosely based on the fact that a tree is balanced yet each one is 'uniquely perfect'. The use of the parabolic arch in Gaudi's designs, were frowned upon, as very few architects used these arches at the time, purely because they are so difficult for the builders to make correctly. When he was younger he saw this shape having been eroded into a cliff by the sea, and he thought that if it was strong enough to not let the rest of the face fall then it must be worth the trouble, such arches were used by Byzantine architects and the Ctesiphon Palace included them. Gaudi used them in the round tower of Casa Batllo, mainly for aesthetic purposes but also as a basis for the curved ceiling. He uses natural forms for decoration in every piece of architecture I have come across in one way or another especially in the Casa Batllo and the Casa Mila
The mixture of architecture and nature become entwined in the fascinating Parque Guell, the use of vegetation and raw materials creates a magical effect. The original concept of Parque Guell was born to Eusebio Guell at the turn of the twentieth century in the form of a 'garden city' on the outskirts of Barcelona. Gaudi was given the job of transforming this uneven patch of land, and produced a plan to build sixty houses each with unique gardens and communal gardens, walkways and roads. This plan was abolished after economic failure, and instead was turned into a public park in 1922.
The double stairway in the park is home to one of the most famous of Gaudi images; the fountain mouthed iguana. The water from the two fountains, come from the roof top of the colonnade of which consists of eighty-six hollow columns used as a grand drainage system. This idea of using figurative water outlets I also saw in Paris at Notre Dame where the gargoyles that stand high up on the rooftop are actually rainspouts. The colonnade in Parque Guell stands overlooking the double staircase in an extremely proud way, even when sitting towards the main entrance I could feel its presence looming behind me. Only two buildings were constructed on the site, both built in stone and decorated with majolica, one of which Gaudi lived in for a long time and that is now a museum dedicated to his works, and the other his friend owned. These two buildings are rather odd they seem to have a castle like feel to them, with the four pronged cross and the toothed roof.
Antonio Gaudi was such a unique architect his work was that of an exploring artist, I imagine he got the same reception as some of the contemporary artists of the twentieth century. He was described as an 'oddball' at architectural college because he did not rely heavily on right angles like the other students. Yet his structures are still so powerful they attract millions of tourists and other architects every year. At present it seems that the major priority of architectural designs is function and aesthetic properties come second, whereas in Gaudi's innovative and exciting designs, aesthetics had such an important role, this goes back to the idea of natural structures being not only beautiful but functional also. The modern structures being created have a very sterile feel to them, large and very clean cut, they are nowhere near as impressive as Gaudi's creations.
In contrast to Antoni de Moragas, Gaudi had perhaps an unrealistic ambition for the Sagrada Familia and even he predicted that it would take two hundred years to complete. Anyone with love and admiration for Gaudi's designs would surely want to see his dream, as he had envisaged it. What becomes problematic for true Gaudi enthusiasts is the compromise, between what he originally intended and how Lluis Bonet adapted the design after the destruction of the original models during the civil war. The reinterpreted designs are still beautiful, and capture many elements of Gaudi's style, once finished the church can be used as it was intended to be and can be enjoyed by all. If they left it "exactly as Gaudi left it as a testimony as something that would have been, but was not" it would simply not have any point to it's existence. As Bonet was prepared to overlook the production of Gaudi's masterpiece, then his lifelong dream would finally come true, a couple of decades sooner than he had anticipated. I think that the completion of the Sagrada Familia is important because it gives an insight to how stunning the piece would have been if it had been created precisely as the Gaudi had intended. Not even Lluis Bonet could have made the building so full of symbolism and images as Gaudi originally did, but a working building is better than another derelict piece of history.