Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Joy of Gaudi

Sagrada Familia was certainly not the only Gaudi building we visited but it was our favourite. Gaudi designed many churches, buildings and even a park in his lifetime. We visited the church, park and two apartment buildings over the course of our Gaudi day.

Park Guell (pronounced Gway) is designed like an English garden but if you can see the English in it you are doing better than I. It looks more like a park for the Flinstones with lots of colourful mosaic thrown in for good measure. It was designed as a gated community for the rich at a time when that kind of thing wasn’t done. It never took off because back in the 20’s, the rich liked to be in the centre of the city action rather than have a larger property on the outskirts of town overlooking the city. How times have changed, eh? Gaudi was a man ahead of his time.

Only three homes were built on the property and one Gaudi lived in for twenty years. It is pink and has a brightly coloured mosaic chimney. Inside, many pieces of furniture designed by Gaudi are on display. Even his furniture has nary a straight line and I have to say, much of it is, well, gaudy. The butterfly couch was one of my faves. The gold living room suite couch looks as though you’d be balancing your buttocks on it, but his furniture was mostly ergonomically designed.

On the terrace in the park, there is a large mosaic covered bench that surrounds the edge. This too is ergonomically designed but we couldn’t try sitting on it because it was so wet. There were strange lumps on the seats that didn’t look particularly inviting to me but as I didn’t try it, I can’t really say it wasn’t comfy. The terrace had holes strategically placed around it so that when it rained, the water would drain down into the columns beneath it to power the park’s fountains. Gaudi was also something of an engineer. Beneath the terrace was a large open area supported by columns that would have housed the market. The ceiling had more mosaic creations on it to add to the festive atmosphere.

The front gates were really spectacular. He had designed buildings on either side to look like gingerbread houses. I think you can see how well he did by the picture. One side was for the park keeper and the other side was for small shops. The whole place was quite striking and exuded an atmosphere of fun.

After the park, we took the metro to La Pedrera, an apartment building designed by Gaudi. It was very curvy and kind of ugly and grey but maybe that was the torrential downpour we arrived in. The whole building was like a figure eight with two large courtyards in the centre. This was to maximize the light in all suites. The one apartment we toured was very spacious and bright. There were windows in every room. Gaudi had even designed the door frames and handles. The interior walls were not supporting walls so owners could move them to create a living space to suit. The roof was the real prize, however, as it undulated across the top. A walkway was created around the outside like a battlement which helped with cleaning. The heavy rain prevented us from going out onto it so we didn’t get a chance to marvel but we could see it through the windows of the top floor.
We walked down the street to the “Block of Discord”, so named because of the very busy facades of neighbouring buildings which compete for most garish. None of the buildings actually complement each other, except to share a flashy, loud exterior. Gaudi’s was my favourite. It looked like some sort of fantastical haunted house with balconies that looked like skulls and siding that seemed to droop as though melting. It had kind of an Adam’s family feel to it. The roof was a beautiful blue/green/pink like the scales of a dragon and the colour scheme was carried on down the side though not as scales. Inside was supposed to be even more fantastical but the cost of viewing these places was also fantastical so we opted to not go in. We looked at the pictures posted out front and bought a book.

The other buildings on the block were just as fun. One looked kind of dutch with the Flemish roof, although I’m pretty sure the comparison ended there. The whole fa├žade was a colourful mosaic of tile. The interior entryway had kitschy metal lamps on the walls and coloured glass designs in the stairwell. It is hard to describe the outlandish design that graced any of these works. Another building was less ornate but still had a very lacy exterior with interesting circular windows up high.

We visited the Catalan Music House the next day and while not a Gaudi creation was a Modernist experience none-the-less. The interior of this place again pulled an “Oh my” out of me. You couldn’t help but gasp as you entered the theatre. It was so ornate, so extravagant that it somehow all worked. I can’t make it happen for you in pictures because they just look wild but once again, sitting in this theatre made you feel happy. It was designed to maximize the outside light with a HUGE stained glass ceiling that drips down over your head. It represents the sun. The rest of the ceiling is covered in ceramic roses in pink and green. The supporting columns have lights that are huge metal circles that look a bit like crowns but are on tilted on an angle to represent seeking the light of the sun. The stage has muses to inspire the performers. These women have upper bodies that emerge from the wall playing various instruments. Their lower bodies are tiled images. When the organ played, I swear it looked like these ladies came alive. We also learned that Modernist is another word for Art Nouveau (French) or Arts and Crafts (British).

The result of these experiences was a satisfying feeling of having been to an amusement park or fun house. Mix into that a bit of wonderment at the cleverness of how it was all put together and you have it. Somehow, Gaudi’s creations and Modernist design just makes you feel happy.


Mynnette said...

Holly- I loved what you wrote about Gaudi. Julie and I saw some of his bldgs when we went to see Amanda while she studied in Spain, but your trip was much more thorough. Thanks for sharing. XX Mynnette said...

Hi All...Home from a great weekend downtown...and Ian and I both felt that we had had a cultural experience (the Bill Reid Gallery, the Interior of the old "Medical Building", various artsy squares on the side walk etc) but NOTHING in comparison to your description of your time with Gaudi! Well done. Love Mom