Barcelona: The Genius of Gaudí
There are no straight lines or sharp corners in nature – Antoni Gaudi
Antoni Gaudi epitomizes the quote through his architectural works. He took inspiration from anything and everything in nature and built ventilation towers that look like mushrooms, facades resembling dragon scales, floor patterns that looks like a coiled snake, columns inspired by forest canopy and many, many more. With his architectural works, he provided inspiration to generations ahead (including the masks of Lucas’ Star Wars). Few artists (I call him an artist instead of an architect because to me, he was an artist first and an architect next) are capable of evoking such level of interest and intrigue in something as mundane as a building. Antoni Gaudi is one of them and a very unique one at that. As you walk through his buildings, a story unfolds bringing forth something totally unexpected and unimaginable (in a good way).
To say that Gaudi’s works are unique would be an understatement. There are more than 15 buildings designed by him in Barcelona. Visiting Barcelona is not complete without paying a visit to the buildings designed by this genius. If I had the luxury, I would’ve spent a week in Barcelona just to check out all his works.
Antoni Gaudi’s background:
Gaudi was a Catalan architect born in mid-1800s and a proponent and pioneer of modernism. He was born into a family of boilermakers and according to him, that helped him work with volume and space very early on. He pursued his academic career in Barcelona as an architectural student. After showing brilliance early on, his professor famously said
I do not know if we have awarded this degree to a madman or to a genius; only time will tell.
According to Casa Batllo’s website:
Antoni Gaudí found the essence and meaning of architecture by following the very patterns of nature and by always respecting it’s laws. He did not copy it, but rather traced its course through a process of cooperation, and in that context he created the most beautiful, sustainable and effective work possible through his architecture.
Originality consists of going back to the origins.
Now which of his famous works should you visit when in Barcelona? There are many to choose from and here are some of the most famous ones that we had visited and thoroughly enjoyed!
La Sagrada Familia:
This is probably Gaudi’s most famous work because of it’s unique design for a cathedral. It was started in 1882 and is still under construction (expected to finish in 2026)! The architectural style is art nouveau with a mix of gothic influence. I wouldn’t call this church beautiful but what catches one’s eye is the design which is unlike any other church you will find. The on going construction adds intrigue to the curious mind. When completed, it is going to have 3 facades of which the nativity facade was completed during Gaudi’s time and adorned with intricate details of the birth of Christ. If you wish, you could also climb the nativity towers for breathtaking views of Barcelona and have a close up look of the church’s construction and sculptures.
When you are inside the church: Look up, look down and look to the sides. The most striking aspects of the interior are the columns that branch out like a forest canopy and the jaw-dropping stained glass windows that were cleverly designed to bring in as much natural light as possible. Watching the glass windows glow in the sunlight is a sight to behold.
Note: La Sagrada Familia relies solely on donations and sales to complete construction so this is one place where it is worth buying tickets to go inside and also climb the towers.
This building is not Gaudi’s complete design but he had only worked on it’s renovation. Per the website, ‘a stone thrown into a pond of flowering lilies would produce the same effect as the main facade of this home.’ Noticing the effect is one thing but replicating it is what I call brilliance! The attic that culminates the facade is inspired by a supposed dragon fighting St. George, and the balconies look like venetian masks. What I loved most about the exterior is the meticulous care taken to assemble each colored glass fragment. It is believed that Gaudi (from the street) himself instructed where each glass fragment was to be placed. Another amusing thing is that the unorthodox style of architecture doesn’t mean they are impractical. In fact, for the interiors, Gaudi improved the courtyard design by adding two enormous skylights. The coolest part is that people still live in these apartments. My tip to visit Casa Batllo is to pay the extra 10-15 Euro and buy the 8.30 am tickets to have the home for yourself (and a few other people).
Casa Mila/La Pedrera:
This place is famous for it’s terrace, the chimneys ventilation towers, attic and stairways. The attic of Casa Mila was designed to resemble the spine of a python, ventilation towers look like mushrooms and the chimneys look like soldiers guarding a tower. Gaudi possessed the magic of transforming the most uninteresting parts of a home (like chimneys, attic) into an artwork. I love the fact that all his designs are functional despite being so unconventional.
This is one of my favorite city parks. This park has everything, acres of greenery and trails to get lost, beautiful views of Barcelona’s coast and colorful works of Gaudi. Most of the park grounds are free to enter except the central monumental core area. Fairy-tale houses at the entrance, a lizard fountain, sloping columns that defy rules of design are a few of the many interesting aspects of the park. All in all, this is a great park to get a good workout for the mind and body.
What they say is true: Traveling opens up a whole new world of possibilities, opportunities to visit seemingly impossible man-made works, watch nature weave it’s magic and get inspired by the works of artistic geniuses. Antoni Gaudi is a mastermind whose imagination and inspiration knew no bounds. One cannot help but wonder how he came up with such radical ideas. Visiting his works felt like walking into the wild and not knowing what one would stumble upon next. With this post, I hope to have piqued your curiosity and inspired you to visit the magnificent works of Gaudi.
Have a few days to explore Spain? Check out best weekend trips from Barcelona
I am Aswani Kurra. I am an engineer, dreamer and part-time wanderlust, writer and wine lover. I always had an urge to write, create and travel. So I created this space to satisfy my creative itch and combine all my skills to help you plan your Charming Escape.