Reflections on Barcelona (1)

What can one say about Barcelona? My first visit left me in awe. Ok, it was largely a Gaudi fest, but the City has many quirks that perhaps amount to the difference between an enjoyable city and a great city. First, let me say that late February is a good time to go. It is not too busy, nor is it too hot. And by definition, not too expensive. Our 3* hotel in the University district came in at under 300 Euros for 4 nights.

Day 1

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbHWe planned a little ahead on the advice of friends. So, to visit the Gaudi UNESCO sites, booking ahead online is advisable. The Cathedral, the Sagrada Família is quite the most extraordinary unfinished building I’ve ever seen. Adopted by Antoni Gaudi in 1883, it became his life’s work where he eventually lived (in his workshop) and died (being hit by a tram immediately outside). The Nativity façade has, what Douglas Adams’ character Slartibartfarst might have called, all of those fiddly bits. The classic icons of the life of Christ in fine gothic detail (left). It took 41 years to complete. The sculptor was a friend of Gaudi’s, Lorenc Matemala. He too, like Gaudi, died a decade before completion of the façade.

The opposite side, the Passion Façade, is much more austere, and unfortunately whilst we were Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbHthere undergoing some work rendering part of it under covers. However, it features the crucifixion in a bold cubist representation (right). It was started in 1956, 30 years after Gaudi’s death, but under his instruction! The bell-towers rise 60m or so, like wicker fences. Another bell tower is under construction to rise 100m or so. Closer to heaven, no doubt.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbHWhilst the outside is spectacular, it is in the inside where the genius is evident. The windows radiate coloured light that changes during the course of the day. Blue in the morning from the East, and red/orange in the afternoon as the sun moves to the West. The windows bear the names of the saints from across the globe. Because of this, it is a space like no other.

The pillars ape tree trunks. They are not straight, they twist as they rise. The ceiling (right) depicts theAutosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH heavens like a warm forest canopy looked over by the apostles.  The light from the stars draw one up.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbHThe cathedral is not yet complete. The next milestone is 2026 when the ‘glory gate’ will be completed. At present it is represented as a photograph with a strange angular figure over it (left).

The cathedral is paid for entirely by donation so the visitor numbers are important. However, the museum housed partially in a basement is spectacular. Here one gets a history lesson, exposure to many of Gaudi’s models – he was a prolific model maker – and get to understand his innovative architectural methods. His buildings generally are defined in terms of catenary arches. TheseDSCF1024 days, computers do the calculating, but for Gaudi, his method involved strings and tiny lead weights.  The strings suspended from above are pulled by the weights. The strings then naturally create strong arches that can be incorporated into the building. It took ten years, apparently, to get the tensions right.The method is demonstrated in the museum, and a mirror allows one to see what the exterior would look like (right). All you have to do is invert the model. Ingenious.

 

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