Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Barcelona - Part 1 - Architecture

I recently had the opportunity to re-visit Barcelona, a city that I've had little background, other than a few hours in passing about 9 years ago. Back then, my only memory of Barcelona was the Sagrada Familia, the modern cathedral that was still being built 80 years later, and some paella.

Now, 9 years later, what a difference! First, the Sagrada Familia, the final masterpiece of Spanish architect Gaudi, while still under construction, is now actual working functional cathedral. I still remember hearing the sounds of drilling and hammering on the cathedral floor when I visited in 2004, but that sound has been replaced by hushed voices with a background of choral music.
Chapel under construction in 2004
Chapel in Sept 2013

There are some interesting architectural details from Gaudi - they are sometimes a bit surreal and odd, but quite clever. From my visit in 2004, I remember the tops of the cathedral towers were crowned with brightly colored pieces of fruit - like an apple, cherry, pineapples. Those same fruits were already showing their age, with their colors now muted by dust and age. In this trip, I continued to discover some interesting details. A colleague pointed out that the columns weren't the usual columns, but were designed to appear like trees, including some "corrugation" around the columns to look like bark, as well as the columns branching above to look like tree limbs. Even the branching patterns sometime appear random. Gaudi was able to combine the appearance of nature's randomness while maintaining architectural support into these columns.
Treetops and (a)symmetrical beauty

Sometimes, there are whimsical elements in the architecture, including these buildings near the front entrance of the cathedral. They share the Gaudi influence of "waviness" (I'm sure there's a more technical term for this), but at first glance, it appears like something out of the Smurfs!
Smurf village? or Gaudi masterpiece?

The cathedral is expected to be completed in 13 years, 2026, for the 100th year anniversary of Gaudi's death. Tragically, he was struck by a tram during the construction of the Sagrada Familia.

Barcelona is a living monument to Gaudi's archtectural style, as his buildings are scattered throughout the city. And despite the age of the buildings, nearly a 100 years old, the style remains quite modern to this writer's eyes.

Part 2... Spanish food and restaurant recommendations for future reference...