Gaudi Gaudi Gaudi

19 Dec 2001 // places

Barcelona could conceivably be called the city of Antonio, the turn of the century architect, the pre-eminent modernist. His touch adds the little magic something to the city. I only managed to visit two Gaudi sites: the half completed cathedral La Sagrada Familia and an urban mansion, the Palace Guel.

La Sagrada Familia is so unfinished that it isn't funny. Begun at the turn of the century, it's not expected to be finished until 2086. Some say it should be left unfinished to give testament to the fact that Gaudi was cut down by a tram before he finished the project. Not that he would have lived until 2086. Gaudi spent the last 40 years of his life devoted to this structure and he worked in a workshop underneath the structure.

At the moment only the north and south facade are finished where 4 of the 12 (future) humungus spires poke out of the Barcelona sky-line dominating all in its wake. Apart from the scale (which is massive even for a high-rise and the Sagrada was designed before high-rises were common-place), it is the decorative style that marks its intellectual stature. It follows the rough plan of a gothic cathedral even down to the ribbing outside one the facades. However, the decoration, is distinctly gaudi. Ornate to the point of ridiculousness, the front facade is glittered with figures bursting out of the stonework. However, there's none of the ordered ornation arranged like clean military lines of Gothic cathedrals, instead the Gaudi forces the clean geometric lines in the columns and balustrades. Ornation on the interior is through the use of complex geometric contours. For instance, the main pillars start off 4 sided at the moment but devolves gradually into various polyhedra until the pillar is circular at the very top. Suprisingly undulating stone blocks break up otherwise stark contours.

In other places, Gaudi let's the full clash of crass decorations give their effect. The top of the spire are painted in ghastly contrasting colours with bright coloured balls and words in big floral letters encircle the ramparts.

In contrast, the Palace Guel is almost a study in restrained eclectism. Based on a typical roman house, the site, usually, was situated right in the heart of downtown Barcelona. The design is a superb example of inter-locking rooms where each room intersects with every other room creating a larger sense of space than the physical space might suggest. In this house? Gaudi elevated the function of windows and lights, trying to give the structure the illusion of lots of natural light. Each room has a definite theme, from the hyper-geometry of the Andulan inspired moslem latticeworks of the welcome room to the orientalist dragon theme of the dining room. Nevertheless, the Palace Guel is remarkable restrained and represents the work of the early Gaudi. It is only on the roof where he allowed himself to experiment with the crazy colours and shpaes that marks his later work.