Barcelona

BARCELONA

The city of St. Feliu de Guixols is not too far north of Barcelona. For three days Soon Jeong and I drove to a train stop 20 minutes from St. Feliu de Guixols. We parked in a free, well lit, parking lot and took the direct train into Barcelona. This system worked very well for us.

After seeing Barcelona I have two cities to recommend to all Architect students. Shanghai and Barcelona.  Barcelona has very creative and beautiful architecture all around the city. It seems Mr. Gaudi opened the door on creative buildings. Of course his buildings and designs are all over the city, including the Gaudi Building a UNESCO World Heritage sight.

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And of course, the very symbol of Barcelona; The Sagrada Familia.

Tip on Barcelona: The city tourist bus is not that great of a deal. Many of the stops you can’t see the object they are stopping for.  The audio narration will tell you… Walk up the hill 5 minutes and blah blah blah is on the left.  Or, walk this way, go that way to see…..    Still, you do several of the city’s highlights and you get an idea of the layout of the city. 

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AND one more tip… do not waste your time trying to video tape from the top deck of a moving bus. No matter how good you think you are, you cannot hold still enough to get decent video.  Video tape when the bus is stopped, example at a stop light. However, about the time you get the camera rolling, the traffic light will change and the bus will be moving again. Taking photos you’ll have better success.

If you tour the Gaudi house at the very least you will be impressed with Gaudi’s (Anton Gaudi 1852-1926) attention to harmonizing human needs to ones living environment.  I was fascinated with Gaudi and greatly admired him for using nature as his teacher.  Gaudi even said something like his greatest teacher was the tree in his garden.  Plus, he paid attention to details. (Boy do I like this guy!) The handles on all the doors and cupboards were shaped to fit naturally into a persons hand.

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He also used good sense and engineering. The Gaudi house is an apartment building with 5 floors. There is an open atrium in the middle. The size of the windows facing the atrium increase in size as you move down to let in more natural light. !! Simple, good engineering.  Ya just need to think about it.

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All of the rooms in the building are layed out so that they all receive a maximum amount of natural light. Omitting the need for electric lights during the day.

There are other things around Barcelona that Gaudi designed. All of them designed with the idea of harmonizing humans to the environment.  You can easily recognize his stuff by the round curves of things instead of the usual squares and sharp corners. Curves and geometry of nature are his trade mark. Buildings, balconies, park benches, and his church all have round curves that appear in nature. 

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Later I was discussing Gaudi with someone and speculating why none of his ideas caught on and became a trend in architecture.  Gaudi is one of a kind and you can only see his stuff in Barcelona.  The answer was money.   Its cheaper and easier to build a square house than something with flowing curves.  Square and rectangular building materials can be easily manufactured in mass quantity in other locations and then delivered to the location they are needed.

Ahh, once again, we have reduced the causes of the world to that familiar motivator and justifier… money.

Back to Gaudi. His finest monument is yet to be finished; The Sagrada Familia roman catholic church. Gaudi conceive the idea of a fabulous church with 18 towers in 1882. He worked on the church for 40 years the last 15 years of his life were totally devoted to the church.

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After his death in 1926 work on the church slowed down. At some point money ran out and the church had to be funded through private donations.   In 1936 the Spanish Civil war halted construction but it was resumed in 1940. 

Several other architects have worked on the design of the church to design a finished plan. As much as possible the integrity of Gaudi’s original idea and philosophy of design have been included. In the 1980s computers were used to enhance the architecture and engineering.

Since Sagrada Familia has been funded by donations work has been proceeding solely. Opening the church up to tourists has helped a lot.  In 2004 and estimated 2.26 million people visited the church.  I don’t know what they charged back in 2004 but, when we visited we paid 10 Euros each to enter. An additional 5 euros were needed (2.5 ea) to take the elevator up into one of the towers for some views from the top.   The line for the elevator took just under 30 min.

Currently the tallest tower is 120 M (394 ft) high. The church itself is 95 m (312 ft) by 60 m (107 ft). When the church is completed is will hold 13,000 people and the height of the tallest tower will reach 170 M (558 ft) above Barcelona. 

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There are 3 facades on the church that are very different looking. They look more like a conservative Salvador Dali creation instead of the outside of a church.

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Inside varying columns that lean (hey, branches of a tree lean!!?)  connect to a curvy ceiling that in some places resemble a cave wall.  Other designs are obviously flowers that are functional as well as decorative.

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You really should see the Sagrada Familia, its incredible.  I am pretty sure it is the biggest tourist attraction in Barcelona.

WHEN the church will be completed is something of a debatable speculation. Some say 2026. I have read 2040 is predicted.  I am betting on the 2026 year as it is the 100th anniversary of Gaudis death. 

Barcelona has much more to offer besides Gaudi. A walk though the old historical part of town was very impressive. Like stepping back into the middle ages. There is a Picasso (9 Euros) museum…hmmmm Id give it a B grade.  

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We spent three full days in Barcelona..loved it,.. and it was not enough. Five would be adequate, and not rushed.

When we left Spain we drove north into France.   Before entering France we stoped in a small town that had the Salvador Dali Museum.(11 Euros ea) (Salvador Dali 1904-1989)  This museum was unique in that Dali himself helped to create it before he died.  Many people don’t get Dali  (Dali probably didn’t get Dali) but almost everyone is impressed with his imagination. Imagination that is so far outside of the box that it impresses us all. 

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 On the surface, Dali looks like.. My god that is weird!  Look deeper and he is very symbolic. His trade mark is the melting clocks.  Look closely, they are all at 6:00 pm.  The hour were the day turns into the night….transition…change.  We toured the museum and it was great. And yes it was weird.

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Aaaand Dali is buried there. You can see his final resting place.  Or maybe, being Dali, he is not actually buried behind the granite tomb stone on the wall. Maybe his ashes are inside one of his sculptures in the museum!

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After Dali, we drove to France and to Carcassonne!!!

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