The architect Antonio Gaudi (1852-1926) didn’t create Barcelona. The city is over 2,000 years old and the famed artist was active around the end of the 19th century. But much that is worthy in this Spanish city is the result of his efforts. Just a list of the works he created that are still extant here would fill pages. To describe them would take volumes.
Unquestionably the most well known of his buildings in Barcelona is the Sagrada Familia, otherwise known as the Temple of the Holy Family. The structure almost defies description. Part neo-Gothic, part neo-Baroque it is sui generis. A series of spires topping a church begun in 1883, it is still under construction.
The Park Guell on nearby Montjuic, completed in 1914, is one of the architect’s civil engineering projects. It is a 20-hectare expanse filled with lush greenery and art objects that visitors to Central Park in New York would envy. Whether it’s the outstanding lizard sculpture or the famed enormous wavy bench, or just a touch of mosaic tile here and there, the distinctive Gaudi look is clearly evident.
Another structure almost as well known and as often visited is the Casa Milà, or La Pedrera (The Stone Quarry). Originally designed as a private home, it quickly evolved into a set of individual apartments. The organic, undulating balconies give the facade its unique look from the street, but the organic Gaudi elements are everywhere in and on the structure. From the ice-cream cone-shaped chimneys to the seaweed-style wrought iron to the hushed, glowing attic, the building is Gaudi throughout.
Several other structures of the man regarded as the Father of Spanish Art Nouveau demonstrate his worthiness to that title.
Casa Batllo, erected in 1907, is one of the many Gaudi buildings on the UNESCO World Heritage list of worthy treasures that prove the point. As in the Casa Milà, the architect’s unusual style is readily visible. The balconies that almost resemble sections of skull around the eye sockets combine with a colorful mosaic-like facade that seems to be melting. The curved chimney complex set in front of an orange clamshell roofline is yet more proof of his unique style.
Gaudi employed organic shapes everywhere, but always adapted them to his own purposes, just as the better known Frank Lloyd Wright always did. That is clear in the Colonia Guell chapel. The unique arches bear the stamp of this unusual artist. Festooned with organic carvings, the arches themselves are sharp angled, yet blend seamlessly into a main structure that appears almost cavelike.
In a city full of outstanding architecture, Gaudi’s work continues to be frequently visited by locals and tourists alike. A single glance at any of his buildings makes it easy to see why.