Thursday 31 December 2015

Barcelona: On the trail of Gaudi's genius

Overcoming the fear of flying
I first visited Barcelona some 18 years ago, it was with my partner and it was an amazing experience. My partner then, a design engineering major had things he wanted to see, for me, it was one of discovery.
This was a time when I was trying to overcome my fear of flying, a strange development that took hold over a couple of years, for no particular reason I could explain. I was used to flying from childhood and at many times travelled alone even before I was in my teens.
However, this flight was quite a pleasurable one, I was sat between a father and son who had come over from Australia. The father had emigrated to Australia about 40 years before and now, he had brought his son who was born in Australia to Europe for the very first time and they were doing a modern sort of grand tour.
Gaudi’s Barcelona I learnt
I guess it was the engagement and conversation that took my mind off the fact that we were in the air and in the process, I somewhat defeated my irrational fear of flying.
In Barcelona, for the first night, we walked up a major street and passed an interesting building that seemed to have an eerie living quality about it, little did I know that it was a landmark building, I later learnt it was Casa Batlló and with that I was introduced to the architectural genius of Antoni Gaudí I Cornet.
From a knowledgeable perspective, Antoni Gaudi as he is commonly known was an early proponent of the Art Nouveau movement and particularly what is referred to as the Catalan Modermisme movement. However, to the untrained eye, meaning those who are essentially not architects, we have a different appreciation of these works, the aesthetics, the design and the appearance of buildings and other forms just show an exceptional quality of inspiration and workmanship unmatched.
A madman genius
When Antoni Gaudi received his diploma, the supervisor who granted his the title of architect wrote, “Who knows if we have given this diploma to a nut or to a genius. Time will tell.” Suffice it to say that seven of Antoni Gaudi’s buildings all in Barcelona have been listed as World Heritage Sites.
Then we were only able to access Casa Milà, Sagrada Familia and Park Güell, at that time, Palau Güell and Casa Batlló were not accessible to the public. Now, literally all the Gaudi properties have a form of access for the public to appreciate the work and genius of Antoni Gaudi.
Sagrada Familia, I have visited twice and both times before it was consecrated into a basilica in 2010. Work commenced on this church in 1882 and work is still in progress sponsored by anonymous donations made towards the building and the upkeep. The first time, I went up the bell towers, the building was fascinating but not such a tourist pull as it is now.
No hurry
Of the time it will take to complete the project, Antoni Gaudi said, “My client is not in a hurry, God has all the time in the world for this to be completed.” It is likely, it will take more generations before the work is finally completely.
Yet, on this my fourth visit to Barcelona, I find myself on the Gaudi trail again, with a better appreciation of the uniqueness of this amazing genius, gifted beyond measure and whose life tragically ended as a result of being run over by a tram.
There is much to Antoni Gaudi’s work and legacy, the fact that he defied convention and boldly took strides that were somewhat unpopular, then there was Eusebi Guell, an industrialist who was a patron and sponsor of his work. He championed some of Gaudi’s listed works being respectful of the talent and a very good friend of the man.
The Gaudi trail cannot be done in a hurry, beyond seeing, there is much to observe. You cannot have done Barcelona without seeing what its most famous citizen did in the city. Here is to more Barcelonas.

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