There is a riot of colours at Las Ramblas, the bustling and picturesque thoroughfare in Barcelona in Spain. The hop on-hop off bus drops me off at the Monument Colum or the Christopher Columbus Monument, a 200ft-tall pillar carved with beautiful sculptures that remind both tourists and locals of the explorer who reported to his royal sponsors, King Ferdinand V and Queen Isabella 1, as soon as he landed in the new world.
"Gaudí's works are seen in parks, houses, churches and various other monuments and every bit of it jolts you. "
Barcelona, the second largest city in Spain after Madrid and the capital of Catalonia province, is a clear favourite of the tourists. Football, fun and food lure people here. The bustling night life and the vibrant beaches add to the charm. But there is an artistic facet to this ancient city that has given the world quite a few famous artists. And one man has left his legacy behind in avant-garde monuments, in colourful tiles, in curved walls and roofs, in twisted columns and spiral chimneys, in a distinctive architectural style that stands for Antoni Gaudí.
Casa Battlo or the House of Bones has a skeletal quality about it
My introduction to Gaudí starts with Casa Batlló, a home that Gaudi remodelled rather radically in the early 20th century. Built in the Art Nouveau style, the oval windows and the flowing sculpted work give it the Gaudí touch. Everything about it is larger than life. Often referred to as the House of Bones, it is now a museum. There are no straight lines here, just curves everywhere and the arched roof looks like the back of a dragon. The facade which is made of broken ceramic tiles, in shades of orange and green, is seen as a symbolic battle between St George and the dragon.
Gaudí's works are seen in parks, houses, churches and various other monuments and every bit of it jolts you. There are surprises when you least expect them, in colours, forms and even structural designs.
My next halt is at a World Heritage Site called Casa Milà (or La Pedrera, which means the Quarry), a monument with an undulating stone façade. A living space of culture and architecture, the monument stuns you with its pillars and unusual wrought-iron decorations on the balconies.
Palau Guell, one of Gaudi's masterpieces that is now a UNESCO site
I take the Hop on-Hop off Bus and continue on to Palau Güell, a mansion that is another of Gaudi's World UNESCO sites. Gaudí wanted the guests to enter the mansion in style, in horse-driven carriages that allowed them to enter the rooms and exit through another.
At Parc Guell, where Gaudi used his designs in public spaces
Gaudí did not just design mansions and palaces. I stop by at Park Güell, where Gaudí's designs are inspired by tree trunks, branches and flowers. He uses a lot of broken ceramic elements in his work, referred to as "trencadís" which can be seen in the stone benches here or in the palace at Palau Güell. As I walk around, I see a terrace filled with columns, an open space which was probably intended to be a market.
The facade of Sagrada Familia, the church that has taken the longest to be completed
Interiors of the Sagrada Familia fill you with awe
Biblical scenes and characters on the facade of the Sagrada Familia
But none of these prepares you for the masterpiece, a living example of Gaudí, Barcelona's basilica that has become a landmark in itself. The Sagrada Família, which remains in construction for the last 130-odd years is Gaudi's magnum opus and swan song. The UNESCO monument started with donations from the public and was initially designed as a Gothic monument until Gaudí revolutionised the design.
The façade however is one of the most striking aspects of the church. Intricate and filled with carvings, you can see the Passion in the West, the Nativity in the East and the Glory in the South which is still being constructed. The Nativity façade which shows images from Christ's birth is meant to embody the very design of the church. It represents Christmas and is referred to as the Façade of Life. The interiors completely stun you with the columns, colours and the creative style. The plan of the church is basically that of a Latin cross with five aisles.
Gaudí was in no hurry to complete the church but he dedicated his entire life to its construction .In fact he died in an accident in front of the basilica in 1926, although the work carries on to this day. In his own words, "The expiatory church is made by the people and is mirrored in them. It is a work that is in the hands of God and in the will of the people... "
I sit there, looking at the most ambitious church to be ever built in the world, reflecting on the life of this coppersmith's son who has left an eternal stamp on Barcelona.
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