Barcelona & Gaudí
Our stay in Barcelona has been highlighted by the amazing work of Antoni Gaudí, one of the most well-known Cataláns in Spanish history. His name is practically synonymous with Barcelona and the major draw for most tourists. Gaudí was an architect from Barcelona who gained recognition for his fantastical organic designs inspired by nature. He was a major contributor to the Modernisme movement that was active around the turn of the 20th century. The focus of this trend which manifested itself in both art and literature was to revitalize Catalán culture and identity.
Gaudí developed his own particularly unique style characterized by patterned brick or stone surfaces, bright ceramic tile mosaics, and floral or reptilian metalwork. He created seven properties in and around the city which have been awarded UNESCO World Heritage distinction. We were fortunate to be within walking distance of several of them in our neighborhood of Eixample. One night at dusk, we walked one block to the main thoroughfare, Passeig de Gràcia, and enjoyed a leisurely stroll revealing this marvelous form of architecture just as the buildings were lighting up for the evening. This grand avenue, replete with all the big name designer stores, is regarded as the most expensive in Spain perhaps equivalent to the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Gaudí had a great influence on many other architects so there are multiple “gaudi-esque” examples along this route.
One of the more famous Gaudí buildings is Casa Batlló named after the prominent textile industrialist who owned the home and commissioned Gaudí to renovate it. It’s located on what is referred to as the “Block of Discord”, a row of houses designed by various Modernisme architects. Purchased by the Bernat family in the 1990’s, the house has been open to the public since 1995. Aside from from offering daily tours, the house can be rented as an event space. Gaudí designed the house spontaneously and never explained his work. There are many theories about the meanings behind all the symbols encompassed in this work, but, in the end, it’s really up to each individual’s personal interpretation. Take a virtual tour here.
Casa Milà, more commonly known as La Pedrera (the stone quarry) due to its unconventional rough-hewn appearance, is another of Gaudí’s creative architectural enterprises and quite a controversial one at that. It suffered ongoing legal battles and constant financial troubles. Commissioned by a wealthy couple who wanted to become part of the Passeig de Gràcias scene, the plan was to create a main floor home with apartments to rent on the floors above. Ironically, the budget was exceeded by such great proportions that they had to mortgage the property in order to pay Gaudí. After many years of use by the Milà family including an array of notable tenants who lived in the apartments, it fell into disrepair. Eventually, it was restored and opened to the public in 1996. Today, La Pedrera hosts a variety of shops on the ground floor, three remaining residential apartments, and daily public tours.
The most recognizable Gaudí architectural icon, of course, is La Sagrada Familia. The first cornerstone for this Roman Catholic church was laid in 1866. Gaudí became its primary architect in 1883 and spent the next 43 years until his death in 1926 imposing his unique style on its design. Still unfinished, construction continues to this day with the goal of completion to mark the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death on June 12, 2026. We shall see!
We have really enjoyed our city center apartment and the Gaudí sites in Barcelona. Tomorrow… off to our luxury penthouse on the beach in València!