When you think about some of the finest architects from around the world, we may all have different names that spring to mind. However, if your background is associated with Spanish history, there is likely only one name on the tip of your tongue – Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi architecture is stereotypically represented throughout Barcelona and as you explore this beautiful city it is hard to avoid seeing his iconography depicted throughout the neighborhoods.
In his prime during the late 19th Century, Gaudi has almost single-handedly produced a myriad of fine architectural buildings and constructions throughout the heart of Spain, most noticeably in the city of Barcelona.
History of Gaudi
Antoni Gaudi was a Spanish Catalan who became famous for his focus on Catalan Modernism. His individualistic, unique approach of designing buildings around Barcelona are clearly influenced by his key interests – architecture, nature and religion.
Gaudi’s work is typified through the vibrant colors and unique variation he incorporated into the design of his work. As we contemplate why and how Gaudi separated himself from his fellow architects during this era, it is noticeable through every intricate detail that he meticulously designed and implemented.
However, this methodical approach didn’t come without a major flaw that is still noticeable to this day as you explore one of Spain’s major cities – his failure to complete the most iconic landmark, La Sagrada Familia. But of course, this was no fault of his and to this day we are still seeing modern day architects attempting to complete his most famous legacy!
It’s no surprise to hear that seven of Gaudi’s works have been declared as UNESCO World Heritage Sites over the last few decades.
Let’s take a stroll around Barcelona and explore some of Gaudi’s finest masterpieces and you will soon find out why visiting Barcelona is all about Antoni Gaudi on every other street corner.
During our recent visit to Barcelona, our first stop was to see Park Guell. After passing by the infamous La Sagrada Familia (more on that later!), we started the hike along Carrer de Larrad which gets gradually steeper but is well worth it. Passing by a number of gift shops and local side streets that provide ample ‘off the beaten path’ photo opportunities, we arrived outside the gates of the gorgeous Park Guell.
Park Guell is one of Gaudi’s most decorative and extensive developments. The construction of this public park was directed by Gaudi in the early 20th century for Count Eusebio Güell and even outside the gates you can see Gaudi’s finest work on show. His iconic colorful tiles line the exterior walls with a decorative Park Guell logo intricately designed with equally beautiful tile-work.
As you walk through the gates, you are presented with a steep, winding staircase though the iconic landmark here has to be the dragon. Known as ‘El Drac’, this colorful creature provides a memorable, symbolic representation of Park Guell and in many ways of Barcelona in general.
The upper plaza of Park Guell is a mingling point for visitors to relax and observe the stunning views across Barcelona’s finest landscapes.
As you move towards the center of Barcelona’s thriving business district, you can wander along the Passeig de Gracia and stumble across several of Gaudi’s impressive designs. In the heart of this street is Casa Batllo which attracts attention in much the same fashion as the other Gaudi inspirations around the city.
Constructed in 1877, this building (at least the interior) was far from what we can see today. In many ways, this was originally just a standard design with very little in terms of Gaudi’s flair and flamboyancy to show. However, when this was purchased by Joseph Battlo at the turn of the 20th century, he hired Gaudi to renovate and provide a more personal touch to the design.
Casa Milà/La Pedrera
The second Gaudi design along the Passeig de Gracia is Casa Mila or more commonly referred to as La Pedrera. A direct comparison with Casa Batllo makes this a lot less aesthetically pleasing, that is if you are looking for typical Gaudi vibrant color scheme.
However, what makes La Pedrera unique is the size and scope of this building as it stands out on the corner of the street.
The exterior has a real subtle way of standing out among a crowd of more modern designed constructions. Just as with all other Gaudi designs, it is easy to spot La Pedrera from a distance. A gorgeous spiral staircase inside is an added feature making this an extremely worthwhile visit and entrance fee (a little expensive at 27 Euros but is likely to provide more value than many other Gaudi designs).
Casa Vicens is a notable building in Gaudi’s fine portfolio of constructions because it was his first commissioned design throughout the city of Barcelona. Unlike many of the other architectures mentioned here, Casa Vicens is located along Carrer de les Carolines which is one of those stereotypically hidden side streets that you stumble across wandering around Barcelona.
Dating back to the 1880’s, Casa Vicens was designed as a private residence and only until recently this has always been the case. It is now currently being transitioned into a public house for visitors and it is hoped that by 2016, people will be able to appreciate the detailed design of the interior as well as outside.
But for now, take a moment to appreciate the beauty of a residential home that is far different to anything you would ever imagine living in! Gaudi was a perfectionist and Casa Vicens is an example of how this approach shines through with all his constructions.
La Sagrada Familia
Of course we had to save the best until last! The most popular landmark not only in Barcelona but also the whole of Spain, Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia is a stunningly beautiful piece of architectural genius. However, the beauty of the Sagrada Familia is even more magnified given that it is still unfinished.
Whether this be one of Gaudi’s late regrets following his death in 1926, it is unbelievable to think that construction is still ongoing to complete this gorgeous basilica. The problem was that following Gaudi’s death when only a quarter of La Sagrada Familia was complete, continued construction relied solely on private funding and much of this dried up during the Spanish Civil War.
The projected completion date is 2026 to celebrate Gaudi’s centenary and I am convinced that this will be an extremely hectic location once finished. Even from the outside, La Sagrada Familia is unlike anything else in the world that I have seen, so it will be interesting to see how construction evolves and whether the modern day architects can mirror the hopes and everlasting dreams of the late Antoni Gaudi!
Five very different architectural designs but one common theme – Antoni Gaudi! As you wander around Barcelona, Gaudi’s constructions are easily visible. These are just a very small number of buildings constructed by Gaudi but I think they provide a nice blend of contrast, primarily because of how Gaudi envisioned they would be used.
From the hustle and bustle of queuing for hours to catch a glimpse of the interior of the unfinished La Sagrada Familia to the quiet back streets that surround Casa Vicens, Gaudi has undoubtedly left his mark in Barcelona. He will always be an iconic figure in global architecture and honestly, a trip to Barcelona or Spain in general wouldn’t quite be the same without exploring his finest works!
You can see more pictures of our experiences exploring Gaudi’s fine architecture here: Barcelona Photo Gallery.
Disclaimer – We would like to thank Turisme de Barcelona for providing us with 2 press cards for our trip. These are solely our personal opinions/experiences and we were not financially compensated for this post.