First and foremost, let me be clear that everything in this post is only my opinion. I am not a designer, an architect or an expert critic of the fine arts. I went into this after recently admitting that when it comes to travelling, I’m not really fussed by two things – religion and architecture. Big churches, ornate cathedrals – I hate to say it, but they all look the same. So it may be controversial, but when it comes to Gaudi, I’m not really fussed.
I know, I know. A revered architect, one of the most famous Catalans of the 19th and 20th centuries, and designer/builder of the Sagrada Familia and six other UNESCO World Heritage sites. On paper, I shouldn’t really be messing with this guy. He designed and built these famous buildings and monuments from scratch, without using plans and blue prints, but just his imagination and some 3D modelling work. But seriously, maybe if he’d done some more planning and spent less time building the ‘abnormal’, he might have finished something.
That sounds a bit harsh, maybe. But the Sagrada Familia, which I am going to see tomorrow, is still not finished. Gaudi’s magnum opis, work began on this huge church in 1883. And it’s still going. Gaudi worked on this for the last 43 years of his life before passing away in 1926, but still 85 years later and the job’s not done. As I said, I’m not an architect, and I’m also not a builder, but if a builder I’d commissioned for a job took this long, I’d be pretty annoyed.
There is no doubt that his work is interesting. Curved walls, open spaces, lots of light and colour, compared to blocked buildings of grey cement. But it’s not exactly functional. How did one fit a flat bed frame against a curved wall in the Casa Battlo? Not sure what the feng shui would be in that situation. Gaudi did create furniture though, which must have helped when decking out his house with the essentials. Can’t find a chair that fits? Sit into a huge ball of clay, mould to your body, and create the chair from that. Which is what he did, actually. The chairs, benches, seats and door handles on display in Casa Battlo are carved to perfectly fit the average human form. That’s pretty nifty, I’ll admit. But these original chairs and seats are also on display in Park Guell, and who knows what other Gaudi properties around Barcelona. Original? Seems the guy took a leaf out of Ikea’s book and got into some mass production.
Gaudi is everywhere in Barcelona. Even the footpath tiles are an homage to his work. And if the catholic church has it’s way, there’ll be even more of him around soon – an application has been submitted for his beatification. As I understand it, that usually takes a bit of time. But so does Gaudi.
I’ll hop off my cubed, structured, solid and finished soap box now
Update: Have seen the Sagrada Familia now and it’s ok. But I imagine it might look a little strange when it’s finished in 2026, when the new stuff is all shiny while the rest of it is moulding from age. Otherwise, inside, it’s huge and spacious, but with so much detail it’s overwhelming and made me dizzy.