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Post Eight - Gaudi Architecture

Casa BattloCasa Battlo

Once in Barcelona, we toured numerous structures designed by Antoni Gaudi, Barcelona's favorite son of architecture. His work definitely provokes strong opinions, but whether you like his work or not, it's clearly the labor of a genius. His fantastic designs, like this window on Casa Battlo, make you want to just stare for hours. This turn-of-the-century home in central Barcelona is a riot of curved stucco twirls and ice-cream-colored glass windows that conjure up images of a castle in Narnia. -- Karen

Tolkien Fortress?Tolkien Fortress?

This is the door of Casa Mila, also known as "La Pedrera", an apartment building considered to be another of Gaudi's masterpieces. Its outside lines include few right angles, just sweeping, almost sensual swells of concrete. Its balconies, doors, windows, and even drainpipes are crafted from various wrought iron and other metals and appear to grow out of the concrete. This building seemed to tower over me like a Tolkien fortress. -- Karen

Gaudi CathedralGaudi Cathedral

The Gaudi cathedral is perhaps the single most impressive building I have ever seen. Seen from afar (like in this photo) it shoots to the sky like some alien space station. Up close it is even more impressive. The towers seem to defy gravity and you expect them to topple over at any minute. Unbelievably, the central tower (yet to be built) will be half again as tall as the existing structure.

At the exit where they ask for donations we emptied our pockets. If and when this church is completed it will be a modern wonder of the world. -- Scott

La Sagrada FamiliaLa Sagrada Familia

Describing the La Sagrada Familia cathedral is difficult. As good as this picture is, you really can't fully believe this building is being built until you stand in front of it.

This cathedral is considered Gaudi's masterpiece. Antoni Gaudi was a deeply religious man who became even more single-minded about his faith in Catholicism with age. He devoted his last years of life entirely to the design and construction of this cathedral, even living onsite.

It was here that I realized that Antoni Gaudi was not only an artist/designer, but also a brilliant engineer. Even a non-engineer like me could appreciate the complexity in the design of these precipitous towers, especially without sophisticated CAD programs and data models.

Construction started in the late early 1900s and should wrap up in 2020. Upon completion, Sagrada Familia will be the largest church in the world, even dwarfing St. Peter's in Rome. In addition to the spires you see here, the plans include an even higher central spire. Someday I hope to return and walk through the completed cathedral. -- Karen

Inside the CathedralInside the Cathedral

Here is another good example of the scale of this cathedral. Clearly, they've got a ways to go. Scaffolding everywhere, heavy machinery, lots of noise.

But if you look closely, you can see the graceful, modern lines the building promises. To the left is one of dozens of columns that will support the nave of the church. Gaudi designed these to look like trees. He also filled the cathedral with windows, even in the ceilings, to bring in as much natural light as possible. Standing in the middle of it, I could imagine what it will be like to walk through the finished product--a quiet, massive space, cool and still, amidst the trunks of smooth, soaring stone trees, staring up to the canopy of the painted ceilings and stained glass. -- Karen

Turtle AbuseTurtle Abuse

My sister, Debra, is fond of turtles. When I saw this one at the base of one of the pillars on the Gaudi cathedral, naturally I though of her. Look Debra, they are abusing turtles in Spain, crushing them under pillars! -- Scott

Climbing into the SkyClimbing into the Sky

While Karen stayed on the ground, I scrambled up the long winding stairs into the turrets. After years of rock climbing in Washington I got used to exposure but being in these high towers was still pretty spooky -- I felt like they could topple at any moment. The stairways at the bottom are narrow to start with but near the top it is almost impossible for two people to pass. Not a good place for claustrophobics. Match this photo to the main photo of the church and you'll get an idea of what I am talking about (notice the person standing on the bridge between the turrets.) -- Scott

Next Up: Sevilla

Copyright 2001
Scott & Karen Semyan