November 2019 − Science in the City
Those who think of Barcelona will think of Antoni Gaudí, the Catalan architect of buildings covered in colorful tiles. These buildings liken Barcelona to a fabulous creature of art that continues to grow.
The Sagrada Família in the middle of central Barcelona, a petrified forest of turrets and towers, colorful dreamy windows and stone curlicues: Antoni Gaudí commissioned the mighty cathedral, which is visited by more than four million people a year, in 1882. Construction has not been completed to this day. “My client is in no rush”, was Gaudí’s alleged response to the question of when the Roman Catholic Basilica would finally be completed. The client to whom Gaudí referred was God himself – and he will now have to be patient until at least 2026. This is when the church is expected to be completed.
As such, building and construction have been ongoing for the past 130 years in Barcelona. The landmark is a work in progress, and it experiences the changes within a cosmopolitan metropolis; the joy of becoming and a relaxed approach to time. These developments are perfectly complemented by the sea. Sometimes lively and exuberant, at other times slow and languid, the water laps at Barceloneta, the peninsula to the South-East. It promises happy times to those who walk, run or picnic along its shores. The sand was introduced in 1992 for the Summer Olympics, and ever since then, there is hardly a tourist who can resist immersing their feet in the water for at least a little while.
A salamander and a mansion in the park
The Park Güell is considered Barcelona’s second largest attraction, after the Sagrada Família. Here, too, Antoni Gaudí and the Spanish Art Nouveau are omnipresent. By the main entrance, two gate houses with sweeping roofs are reminiscent of sugary cupcakes, and a huge Salamander with a carapace of colorful mosaic stones is sunning itself – Barcelona experiences only 90 days of rain in a year. Next to the amphibian, an open staircase leads to a tiled terrace that invites one to take a break and rest, and enjoy the view across the rooftops. Beginning in 1900, Antoni Gaudí designed the garden for the industrial tycoon Eusebi Güell, and he lived there for almost 20 years. Today, furniture designed by him is on display in his turreted mansion.
By the Boulevard of Splendor, Passeig de Gràcia, in Barcelona’s largest neighborhood L’ Eixample, looms Gaudí’s Casa Batlló. Its ceramic roof tiles glisten green and blue, and they resemble the scales of a dragon. A gallery on the second floor represents the mouth of the beast. On April 23rd, when all of Barcelona celebrates its Patron Saint, St. George, who slayed the dragon and freed a princess and a village from its tyranny, the inhabitants of Casa Batlló decorate their balconies with red roses. According to the legend, a rose emerged from the dragon’s blood. Almost directly across from Casa Batlló, you will find Casa Milà, for which Gaudí layered six stories, one upon the other, and designed a façade in the shape of a wave. Because the stonemasons began working on the large panels of the front section only after they had been installed, the natives call Casa Milà “la Pedera” – the quarry. Since 1984 it has been listed as a UNESCO® world heritage site – the first building of the 20th century.
The upper floor comprises an apartment with furniture dating back to the 1920s. On the rooftop terrace, ventilation shafts in the shape of soldiers make up the natural ventilation system of the building that renders air conditioning superfluous.
Miró’s chimeric being of man and woman
Those who have seen enough of Gaudí and the Modernisme Català may embark on a new adventure by following in the steps of the painter Joan Miró. Miró was born in 1893 in Barcelona’s old town. The son of a goldsmith, he first studied at the Escola de Belles Arts de la Llotja, a school which was also attended by Picasso. All over the city, Miró left joyful works: the airport is adorned with a wall ceramic; downtown, a round floor mosaic decorates the pedestrian zone of La Rambla, and in the Parc de Joan Miró stands a concrete sculpture with the title “Dona i Ocell”. One needs a little imagination to recognize a woman and a bird within the sliced-open stem, but the garden with its forest of palm trees, eucalyptus trees and pine trees offers pleasant shade and a cool breeze on a hot day.
Baroque still life in a market hall
Relaxed, yet busy – that is the life in a covered market near the Rambla. At the Mercat de la Boqueria, prawns glow pink through the ice. Bunches of pepperoni and garlic dangle like braids from the ceiling, and oranges, lemons and plums are piled up in delicious pyramids. The scent of basil and mint fills the air. The fresh food market, with its overflowing wares, resembles a still life from the Baroque era. At the same time, it is Barcelona’s tourist attraction that is most closely interwoven with the everyday lives of the local population. This is where the Spanish shop for spices, meat and vegetables, while tourists try Paella, the national dish of the East Coast, or Crema Catalana. The moment one senses the hearty, savory taste of the rice dish in one’s mouth or the sweetness of a dessert covered in caramel, one will feel at home in Barcelona, Catalonia’s colorful beauty by the Mediterranean Sea.
LET’S GO! - Barcelona
Art and architecture in Barcelona – give me more!
© Getty Images
In 1895, Pablo Picasso moved to Barcelona with his family, where, barely 14 years old, he succeeded in passing the entrance exam of the Academy of Arts. Today, a number of travel agencies offer tours of his favorite spots in Barcelona; for example, the artists’ café Els Quatre Gats (The four cats) – the venue of Picasso’s first solo exhibit. Another stop is the Museu Picasso, which resides in five contiguous gothic city palaces dating as far back as the 13th to 15th centuries. The rooms mainly display works from Pablo Picasso’s youth.
The Antic Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau is considered one of the lesser known modernistic buildings in Barcelona. It was built at the beginning of the 20th century by Catalan architect Lluís Domenèch i Montaner. It comprised 48 different pavilions that are connected underground. Each one of the new façades is unique – with sculptures, mosaics, peaks and bays. Since the structure no longer serves as a hospital today, it is open to visitors.
Carrer Hospital, 56, 08001 Barcelona
The Museu d’art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) was designed by star architect Richard Meier, and it rises up close to the Rambla in the shape of a bar of glass and white aluminum among the medieval backdrop of the neighborhood of Raval. Inside, art from the 20th century until the present day is on display; for example, Graffiti works by Keith Haring or material art by Antoni Tapies. Outside, youth enjoy skateboarding, and tourists indulge in café con leche.
Plaça dels Àngels, 1, 08001 Barcelona
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