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Gaudi’s Barcelona

April 11, 2012
Parc Guell Viaduct

Parc Guell Viaduct

I spent Easter weekend walking around Barcelona, visiting the architectural creations of Antonio Gaudi.  First off was the famous Sagrada Familia cathedral which is still under construction and looks as though it will never be finished.

Disappointed by the camouflage of cranes and bubblewrap around the spires, not to mention the crocodile of visitors wrapped around the outside, we made a brief refreshment stop at the ubiquitous Starbucks before pressing on to Parc Guell.

Originally conceived as a ‘garden city’ this was a surprising use of space, ornamented today by a variety of musicians and a handful of artists.  Walking from one end of the parc to the other did not take very long but looking back from one viewpoint to another gave the illusion that one had covered many miles.

Expressing form and space in a unique way is one of Gaudi’s signature tradmarks, another is his use of shapes inspired by studying nature.  The steps up to the parc bear the inscription: ‘All comes from the book of nature’ in several languages.

Born to a family of metalsmiths in 1852, this upbringing is said to have influenced his concept of spatial design.

An outstanding feature of the parc is the serpentine seat which is supported by a pillar structure not unlike that of the viaduct but demonstrates another aspect of his artistic style, the trencadis or mosaics made from shards of tiles in Moorish patterns.

The Serpentine Seat

The Serpentine Seat

Words associated with Gaudi’s work time and time again are: undulating, meandering, contorted, sinuous, serpentine, and snakeskin-patterned.  In fact he seems to have had a preoccupation with the reptile kingdom.  Snakes, dragons, serpents, lizards and chameleons are regular features of his work.

La Perdera

La Perdera

This led me to the idea that La Pedrera, which the Catalonians refer to as ‘the stone quarry’ is more like Medusa’s lair than an appartment block.  I let my imagination wander along these lines and am working on a poem based on a hero rescuing his love from the Arabian guards (the ornamental ventilation towers) on the rooftop.

As a poet, the lessons that I can learn from Gaudi are to: – come up with an innovative construction- use ornamental methods based on the shapes, colours and geometry of nature- depart from the traditional designs of the day.

Gaudi was also fortunate to secure the backing of wealthy industrialists who allowed him to give his imagination free reign.This in turn has provided Barcelona with a legacy of buildings which resemble the skeletons of the organisms which he studied.

I was fascinated with the skeleton of a sponge, though I don’t know how I would express its intricate latticework in words. However, I was pleased to see that another architect has drawn inspiration from La Pedrera and designed a facade with the reverse image of Gaudi’s appartment block onto a department store in a nearby street.Reverse image on department store

The view gives you an idea of the long walk back.  I cannot recall spending so many hours walking the streets of a city (6+ per day) but there is so much to take in as Gaudi is not the only architect to have left his mark on the buildings.  Among my favourites is the peach coloured one in the Ramblas adorned by Chinese fans, parasols and a green dragon.

Oriental building on the Ramblas

Oriental building on the Ramblas


From → Poetry

  1. I really envy you Judith as Barcelona is such a fabulous city and to be on the trail of Gaudi is a sure fire way to new ideas and inspirations. I like the way you ask what we can learn as poets from Gaudi’s work – I like the answer too. I’m increasingly interested in blurring the separtions between the arts and in collaborations with other artists so that we learn from and inspire each other. I look forward to someday reading the poem – perhaps in publication?

    Looks like an altogether fabulous weekend

    • Hi Avril. Yes, it was a great weekend. Since working on my own poetic response I have been reminded of the serpent imagery in Virgil’s Aeneid which I studied for ‘A’ level latin. Will attempt to weave some of the same into my poem without overdoing the sibilance.

  2. Lovely Post. I was there with my daughter staying on the Ramblas. The eyes were cahing with seeing. Will like this with the new Room Toe Wrote Website…

    • Were you there at the same time, Wendy or on another occasion? Would you believe we were watching an Easter procession in a crowded square (packed in like sardines) when someone waved at my husband – one of his work colleagues. Apparently another was in the vicinity. Many years ago a similar thing happened to us in another part of Spain. Thousands of people had gathered for a fiesta and we managed to bump into someone else my husband knew from work. I guess that’s serendipity for you.

  3. That is Room to Write Website at !!! Hope you like it!

    • Great new look to the site. One of my mantras is ‘Read to write, write to read’. Lately I’ve been working on the reverse, putting writing before reading.

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