We’re all historical building-ed out. From Morocco’s palaces to Spain’s cathedrals along with every other stately old building around the corner, everything looks the same now. *Oh my, not another grand, palatial palace*
So with that frame of mind we set off to visit Barcelona’s “must-see” tourist site – the La Sagrada Familia, the most famous work of the famous architect Antoni Gaudi i Cornet. Following a brief discussion on the Metro en route, we reached an agreement that in the case of the entrance fee being more than 10 Euros, we’d just stare at it from the outside.
We exited the Metro station, turned around, and went “Holy crap!” There in front of us stood the weirdest, most whimsical, yet spectacular building that either of us had ever seen. After Sara popped into Burger King to get a refreshing milkshake, we paid for the entrance fee plus audio guide (which came to a staggering 17 Euros per person) and went in.
The fact that we (and probably another 50,000 people per day) were paying top dollar to visit a construction site did not escape us. Although work began on the Sagrada Familia in 1882, construction is still ongoing (they succeeded in putting on the roof a few years ago, and it’s estimated that the entire building will be finished by 2040). Could this just be the most profitable construction site in the world?
Its insides are just as weird, whimsical and spectacular as its outsides. Although some parts seemed a bit… Gaudi *cough cough*. Other than “Gaudi”, there’s no other way to describe Gaudi, other than “genius”. He didn’t just draw stuff, he re-invented the classical forms of columns and other structural components using complex geometry (hyperbolic paraboloid kind of stuff). This has caused La Sagrada to be ranked by some other blogger as one of the “9 Most Mathematically Interesting Buildings in the World“.
Not understanding any of the maths, what we personally liked was that Gaudi drew inspiration from nature – for example the inside of La Sagrada Familia was designed to look like a forest, arches were designed based on seashells, and columns based on tree trunks and plant leaf arrangements.
Gaudi is the most well known of the Modernistas, a group of architects who set out to create a specific Catalan architecture in Barcelona between 1880 and the 1920s. His life came to a tragic end when he was hit by a tram. Apparently nobody bothered to help because he looked like a tramp (probably too tied up with his work on La Sagrada) and he died at the hospital because he was driven there too late. Anyway, the “works of Gaudi” which includes seven properties scattered around Barcelona, have been listed as a World Heritage Site.
Now firm Gaudinistas, we trudged around Barcelona to see his other buildings (from the outside, so no entrance fee involved). We managed to see two. Of these, our favourite was Casa Battlo, for its playful design and colours. In second place was Casa Mila, which was completed in 1910 as an office block and apartments.
In souvenir shops all over town we kept seeing a mosaic lizard and other mosaic animals being sold and wondered what the heck mosaic animals had to do with Barcelona. We found out why on our trip to Park Guell, a park on a hill designed by Gaudi. Like Gaudi’s other works, the park was crawling with tourists. Unlike (most of) his other works, there is no entrance fee.