One stop in Barcelona – even for a day – and if you didn’t know who Gaudi was before you got here, then you will once you’ve left. The Barcelona-born architect left an unmistakable impression on Barcelona, which makes you think that even now the man was streets ahead of his time. The folk at the time of his works and constructions must have thought he was crazy!
Although Gaudi has several works dotted around Catalunya, this article is going to focus only on the main attractions in Barcelona city itself. Gaudi’s first work was to help in building “the garden of Barcelona” – Cuitadella Park, and he designed the fountains and gates. Other works along the Barcelona tourist routes can be seen, such as the benches and lamps in Paseo de Gracia and the Plaça Reial, half way down Las Ramblas. Once you’ve seen a few examples of Gaudi’s work, you can usually guess at others – his Modernista style is easy to spot, and difficult to reproduce.
One of the best examples of the man’s genius is sat near the top of Paseo de Gracia street – Casa Mila, also known as “La Pedrera” or Stone quarry, due to the huge carved stones making up the façade of the building. This is well worth a visit, and is the 4th most visited sight of the city. A period decorated apartment, attic museum with original blueprints and scale models and the amazing rooftop terrace makes this a real taster in Gaudi’s style.
In 1878, Gaudi met Count Guell – a man of considerable fortune, who funded many of his works from then on, including Palau Guell, in the Old Town, just off Las Ramblas on Nou de La Rambla. Scaffolding has just recently been taken down (April 2008) due to a complete clean of the façade and work is still going on inside to restore the amazing interior. Unfortunately (but typical in Spain) work has well over run, and nobody is quite sure when the attraction will re-open for visitors.
Another project – perhaps the only one that failed – is the amazing Parc Guell. This was originally designed to be an exclusive neighbourhood of Barcelona – aimed to imitate the English city gardens so admired by Count Guell. The park was to be split up into individual plots of land to be sold off, but the idea never took off and in 1922 the Guell family gave the overgrown park to the council who began restoring it. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s easy to see why. The fairytale park combines natural curves and inclines with man-made structures which confuse and delight. The best way to visit the park is backwards, as it is in face on a hill.
Finally the unfinished masterpiece that is the Sagrada Familia Cathedral (Holy Family). This jaw-dropping structure towers above its neighbouring buildings and is the landmark of the city and most visited tourist attraction. The 2 current facades of the church look like a cross between a melting candle and a futuristic crucifixion scene. Work is continuing at a slow pace but the finished article will be one of the most spectacular buildings in the whole world one completed.