Barcelona’s Gaudí Gold

Barcelona, the cosmopolitan capital of Catalonia, contains a treasure-trove of designs by its own illustrious architect Antoni Gaudí. Here, Gaudí’s ambitious body of work includes utilitarian sidewalk pavements and street lampposts, private mansions for the wealthy, and the extraordinary first cathedral of the present age.

Pavement

Under-the-sea themed pavement tiles, Passeig de Gràcia

Our long walks through the stylish and circuitous streets of Barcelona were like a treasure hunt for Gaudí gold. Even our footsteps on the sidewalk pavement stones of Passeig de Gràcia revealed Gaudi’s designs under foot.

Lampposts

Lampposts, Plaça Reial, Gothic Quarter

Born in 1852 to a Catalán coppersmith, Gaudí was raised as a fervent Catholic, and educated in Barcelona as an architect. A well-groomed and carefully dressed dandy in his youth, his first official commission was a set of lampposts that still cast their radiant light on Barcelona’s Plaça Reial.

Dragon Gate

Wrought-iron Dragon Gate, Pavellons de la Finca Güell

Influenced by nature and his Catholic upbringing, Gaudí lived an extraordinarily creative and religiously charged life. He pioneered the Catalán version of the Art Nouveau movement known as the Modernisme style, and personalized the forms in his own inventive way.

Casa Vicens

Casa Vicens

In short order, Gaudí gained commissions from several of Catalonia’s wealthy industrialists to build their palatial homes in this emerging and ornamental style. In his first residential project of Casa Vicens, Gaudí employed Modernist elements in the decorative neo-Mudéjar (Moorish Revival) manner.

Casa Batllo

Casa Batlló

His organic and free-flowing architectural designs have become synonymous with Catalonia’s free-spirited identity. Gaudí’s masterpiece of residential design, Casa Batlló includes an imaginative façade adorned with colorful mosaics of broken tiles and iron-railed balconies shaped like theater masks.

Guell Sign

Trencadis (broken tile mosaic), Parc Güell

Gaudí had several wealthy patrons, but his primary benefactor was the textile industrialist Eusebi Güell. Güell granted Gaudí unlimited artistic license to design and construct his opulent home, whimsical hillside park, and industrial colony chapel on the outskirts of the city. 

Casa Mila

Casa Milà

Over the years, Gaudí’s celibate lifestyle, vegetarian diet, and long unhealthy fasts led to his increasingly pious and spartan existence. The last private residence he designed, Casa Milà, was also his most criticized, for its rough-hewn finish and relatively austere form.

Sagrada interior

Interior, Sagrada Familia

In the last years of his life, Gaudí devoted all of his efforts to Sagrada Familia, and his epic ambition to construct a three-dimensional history of the Catholic faith. Here, he employed catenary, parabolic, and hyperbolic structural forms, and enveloped them with natural and religious symbols to vivid and awe-inspiring effect.

Sagrada exterior

Nativity Façade, Sagrada Familia

On an untimely summer evening in 1926, during his daily walk to mass, Gaudí was accidentally struck by a tram and rendered unconscious. Wearing a baggy and worn-out suit with only a few nuts and raisins in his pocket, he was mistaken for a drunken beggar. Finally identified in hospital, he died two days later.

Sagrada distance

Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia from Parc Güell

Antoni Gaudí was ceremoniously interred in the crypt of the unfinished Sagrada Familia. To this day, his heart continues to beat to the rhythm of construction, scheduled for completion in 2026, the centennial year of his death. Marked by a large “X” on our treasure map, Sagrada Familia rises unmistakably as Gaudí’s magnum opus and our greatest plunder of Gaudí gold.

Guadi Bust

Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926)

 

Feature Image: Palm Leaf Fence, Casa Vicens

8 thoughts on “Barcelona’s Gaudí Gold

    • You are so right about the tourist guides, Janis. We were amazed at how many other Gaudí projects we found in Barcelona. I only had space to show his most famous works, seven of which are included as World Heritage Sites. I like to post pictures to IG every couple days to show some of the places not covered in the blog posts, and to keep our friends and family aware of where we are.

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    • Gracias, Señor. Our journey is off to a fun and interesting start. It has been hot, humid and crowded over here. We are looking forward to September 1st, when most of the tourists have to go home to work and school.

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  1. I love how much I learn through your blog! I had never heard of Gaudi, even though he was obviously such an important part of Barcelona’s architecture. And those building he designed were fabulous, particularly the church!

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    • I am so happy that you learned a little bit about Gaudí is this post, Ann. I read a biography about him this summer, but learned so much more by seeing his works in person. I agree that his church dwarfs all of his other projects, but they all inspired me, and demonstrated his skills as an architect, structural engineer, and artist.

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  2. Joe, great photos as usual. Even though I’ve been to Barcelona a couple of times, there are a number of these buildings and architectural details that I haven’t seen. As you know, it’s hard to see everything that Gaudi did there. Your excellent photos remind me what a creative genius the man was, but truthfully, when it came to his lifestyle he was weird. I’m sure there are psychology books out there that address this genius/weirdo combination, but it repeats itself time and again. Another genius that comes to mind is Tesla. Anyway, good post and photos. Enjoy your time in Spain. ~James

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    • Thank you, James. I always enjoy and appreciate your thought-provoking comments. Your analysis of Gaudí and comparison with Tesla is very fitting. They were contemporaries, and shared a lot of weird traits. Both men were workaholics, remained unmarried, had unusual diets and sleep patterns, and lived very regimented daily schedules. Both relied on their memories and creativity rather than detailed plans. Despite their weird habits, they both excelled in their respective fields of architecture and engineering. It would be very revealing to “get inside” the minds of these genius/weirdos, to better appreciate the power and potential of the human brain. Saludos, Joe

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