Modernisme

by arianambrand

Wednesday morning we set out into the rain, newly-purchased umbrella in hand.

Our goal was to visit three big Modernisme landmarks in Barcelona: the Block of Discord, Casa Milá and the Sagrada Familia.

Out of the two Block of Discord houses, I liked Casa Lleo Morera, designed by Montaner, best. It was covered with incredibly detailed flower carvings.

I didn’t think Casa Milá was all that attractive in the rain–in fact, it was a little spooky because all of the shutters were drawn and it’s clear that no one lives there. The iron balconies were cool, however, and it was a good introduction to the Sagrada Familia, which uses many similar motifs (the four-armed cross, tree-like columns, no straight lines etc)

The church itself is quite shocking in person. If you click on this image and view the zoomed-in version, you can see that the towers of this facade are covered in writing! It’s very odd, but the trend is continued on the unfinished main ‘Glory’ facade, which will have the words of the lord’s prayer in many languages covering the front.

I wish I had more photos of this facade. Basically, the finished basilica will have three facades. One, the Nativity facade, was completed during Gaudí’s lifetime and depicts the birth and life of Christ. This one, the Passion facade (click here for a large-size photo of the whole thing) was completed only recently and shows scenes beginning with the Last Supper. I love how stark and angular the figures are: here, you can see Judas kissing Jesus, next to a magic square that sums to 33 (math note–it’s not an ideal magic square, since 14 and 10 are used twice, but it is possible to construct a non-repeating magic square with a sum of 33 using all but one of the digits 0-16. Still, pretty cool). At first, the bony sculptures are kind of repulsive, but they grew on me. Compare this Jesus to the young carpenter on the Nativity facade:

The Nativity facade is all Gaudí, a riot of plants and animals. Here’s a tortoise, one of two who support the main columns.

And here’s the main piece of the facade (click photo to embiggen). You can see the nativity scene down in the bottom center, kings to the left and shepherds to the right with choirs of angels above, and the Coronation of Mary at the top center.

Crazy, anyway. Even cooler was the inside, which was only finished recently.

The columns spring up like trees to a palm-frond roof, and the whole building is so open and airy it’s hard to believe that it’s all made out of stone. Thanks to Gaudí’s innovative branching-column design, the building is made entirely without buttresses, allowing it to have more room for big windows, and to stretch higher than ever (the famous skyline with the 4 towers? Yeah, the finished central towers are going to be half again as tall, and twice as big around. It’s going to be epic).

This is not to say that it’s not occasionally a little tacky. Christmas lights over the altar seem a little out of place among all that white stone and white sunlight. Regardless, I loved it–and I can’t wait to see it when its done in 2028…

That night, we moved to a different hostel closer to the ocean, and the lovely owner arranged for a tapas party. We were all told to bring something to eat, she made sangria, and we had a lovely time meeting people from a dozen countries and conversing in English and Spanish.

For dinner that night (at 10:00!) we kind of inadvertently went to one of the fancier restaurants in Barceloneta (fancy ie olives on the table for snacking and a pre-chilled champagne bucket next to our table. So we ordered paella (so delicious!) and wine and pretended we were fancy too. It was very successful.

It was an excellent end to a great (if rainy) day.

A few more modernisme in Barcelona photos here, plus a shot of Paella with crawfish and shrimp. Yum.

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