BARCELONA part 3
Park Guell was started in 1900 outside of Barcelona as a development for homes, to allow for people to live in a new suburb that was planned for the expansion of Barcelona; the city’s walls had been torn down some fifty years earlier. The new neighbourhood, yet in the middle of nowhere, was called the ‘Eixample’ and was designed by engineer Ildefons Cerda, as an addition to fast growing Barcelona, to accommodate a new city with a modern attitude, effective, healthier and fairer than the old city, in the spirit of the Modernist movement.
At the time, the city had about half a million residents and was fast growing with the expansion of industry, and on the search for a new image as a nationalist, Catalan region in an expansionary mood — reborn. The architect Antoni Gaudi fit very well with this vision and he embodied all that was Modernism. The parallel movements elsewhere in Europe were Liberty, Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, and Sezession. Modernism went beyond architecture and art, also encompassing the language, literature and music. In architecture, forms derived from nature became the model for both structural and ornamental facets of construction.
Gaudi went very much farther in his expression of modernism and art nouveau by being modern, but not denouncing tradition. He used the Catalan vault and old craft styles, but also was taking an interest in the expressive potential of iron. Specific to Gaudi was his extremely religious bend, as a Roman Catholic devout man. His final life’s work was of course the Basilica I Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia. His nick name became “God’s Architect”.
The Eixample neighbourhood expanded rapidly, and was especially liked by the bourgeoisie who settled there, with industrial development on its outskirts occupied by modern industries. The clean slate nature of the development provide opportunities for architects for using the new modernist styles. Most of Gaudi’s buildings are found in this neighbourhood.
This is a photo of the Sagrada Familia model of how the weight of the roof would exert pressure on the walls and pillars. The model is upside down, to use gravity to measure the weight.
Instead of drawing his construction plans and blue prints for a building, he preferred to create them as a three dimensional scale model and adjusted the details as he conceived them.
He used the Park Guell in that way as well, and used various styles of traditional building to construct the galleries of local rock, but with a twist. He played around with the regular style of building a large space covered by a roof in traditional Gothic, Roman and Greek construction, where symmetry and upright pillars that supported a roof, were the basic forms. Gaudi, however, made the pillars slanted and leaning in opposite directions, even the roofs were leaning, everything seems out of its natural position, and yet, it works and the end product, the building, is solid. Gaudi was advancing construction theory and architecture with leaps and even maybe light years ahead.
Unfortunately, Park Guell failed as an urbanisation project in the new development of Eixample, as it was too far away from the city for commuters, transportation was an issue, it was located in dry, desert country, without vegetation or reliable water sources, in short, too much of a challenge. The developer built one home, the model home so to speak. It stood empty and was not sold. Eventually, Gaudi moved in with his ailing mother and a cousin. He was said to have received one male friend occasionally. The house is now a museum with furniture designed by Gaudi.
To protect him and his company from prying eyes, he constructed an arbour with vines, to protect from view and create privacy.
Eventually, one more house was constructed where private owners still live there now. The hill was irrigated and planted with drought resistant trees and shrubs. It would be a lovely place to live now.
In one area, on the highest spot in the park, a replica Mount of Golgotha is located with the three crosses, as a warning to remember the religious tenet of Christianity, the crucifixion of Jesus to relieve the sins of the world.
Gaudi was a proud Catalan and believed that Mediterranean people were gifted with creativity, originality and an innate sense for art and design. I would have to agree with him. He created the custom of using discarded pottery for the art form of mosaic.
This was the arch of the wave, a realistic expression of the surf: a liquid wave — in stone.
The statue of mother earth.
Park entrance, and the staircase with the large mosaic dragon (icon in the city’s emblem) and open mouth of the snake. The snake carries on into the design in the seats on the patio above.
As the weather is brilliantly sunny and people seek shade and shelter from the blazing sun, the galleries all through the park are not only decorative, but very functional. The gallery behind the park entrance is made of pillars supporting a roof and is the largest gallery of pillars. It is part of the entrance stairway and is covered by a terrace, where I could easily envision community parties and receptions taking place, with a great view of the city and the park.
The seats of the bench that lines the edges of the roof top all around are ergonomically designed, have drain holes in the back rest which collect the water and drain it through pipes that are hidden in the pillars underneath, carrying the water to large cisterns—in case it rains. The water can be filtered and used. It is also used to fill the pond at the bottom of the stairs.
The gallery below is a palace in its size although it is not used for anything at this time, other than marvelling about its feel of space and coolness, and its construction. Also here in this gallery, not simply a set of straight pillars holding a roof. No, the lean is obvious when physically there, but hard to catch in photos. The opposing forces of the pillars are creating a brilliant protection overheard.
From the patio on the roof, a staircase winds down to the central plaza of the entrance. Two smaller houses are flanking the entrance: real fairy tale homes, with each a mushroom on its roof: one poisonous, the other edible, but oh, so alike. Only someone who knows about nature and mushrooms could tell the difference…A grotto with fresh water is also located at the entrance.
From this location, the entrance can be best admired with its staircase, as the main event amidst the competing multitude of visuals to take in.
After all of this in the hot summer sun, I have to admit I was pretty wiped. I didn’t mount the stairs to see the inside of the fairy tale house. I just sat and have a coffee, overwhelmed by the genius of Gaudi and his outrageous creativity….that’s when my travel companion snapped me…