The roof of Casa Milà
When I first saw pictures of Gaudí’s architecture about 15 years ago, I couldn’t even believe what I was seeing. Whacky, improbable yet gorgeously compelling buildings and parks rippled in front of me in picture after colorful picture. “Is this real?” I asked my friend. Well, now I can be sure it is, because we dedicated an entire day in Barcelona to seeing as much Gaudí as humanly possible. We visited Casa Milà (also known as La Perdrera), Park Güell, still-in-progress masterpiece cathedral La Sagrada Familia, and finally the exterior of a couple of other buildings that he designed.
I took the above picture on the roof of La Pedrera, which was originally intended as an apartment building. These two figures are chimneys(?!). Believe me, there was more to see on that wonderland roof. Below is another shot facing down toward the inner courtyard. Notice the lack of straight lines and the interesting metal work on the windows. He proudly came from a family of metalsmiths.
There are many, many, MANY other pictures from this visit, which I’m happy to share. However, I’ll try to control the sharing here on the blog because Gaudí is not for everyone–in his time, his peers made fun of him. Apparently the reason why they nicknamed this building La Perdrera, which means “The Stone Quarry,” was because people thought it was so ugly. Of course, others consider(ed) his work to be an ingenious blend of architecture and sculpture. Now he is widely considered “the most internationally prestigious figure in Spanish architicture,” at least according to GaudiDesigner.com.
Of his numerous distinctive qualities, I particularly appreciate Gaudí’s love of forms found in nature and his attempts to re-create this in buildings. We saw a great exhibit that demonstrated some of his inspirations in nature. See pics below — this roof accomplishes, among other things, an innovative way to repel water. Mike and I were excited to see this roof in its model and actual form. We weren’t sure how the roof would deal with snow, however. How much does it snow in Catalunya?
At the exhibit, the building model juxtaposed with a picture of a sting ray and leaves– and the building seen in real life.
In addition to his fascination with nature, Gaudí also was concerned with the treatment of light. At one of the exhibits, Gaudí was quoted as saying, “All the excellence of architecture is the light. Architecture IS the ordering of light.”
In order to shed light in a new way and to recreate forms in nature, Gaudí used many “biomorphic” shapes, parabolic arches, and hyperboloids, reinforcing the structures with steel. He solved architectural/gravitational problems by creating arch designs upside down with weights and interconnected strings.
Hyperboloid, paraboloid, and hyperbolic parabaloid pics from Wikipedia.org. Wikipedia pointed out that hyperbolic parabaloids are found in Pringles potato chips! Gotta love the Art Nouveau snack food.
All in all, the visits to Gaudí’s creations inspired us both. We were bathed in a day full of whimsy, genius, light, mosaics, and surprises. Visiting the unfinished cathedral, still under construction, gave us the profound feeling of being part of history, to see that people toil on to finish this deceased architect’s vision. I hope to return here someday to see the progress.
Looking up at a finished portion of Sagrada Familia’s interior