Spain 2016: Barcelona—Gaudi with a side of Flamenco

Gaudi’s architectural creations are an awe-inspiring mix of technical skill and artistic flair. I was beyond delighted to share my visit to Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, and Casa Milà with my husband and my parents. Our senses got overwhelmed quickly—but in a good way!

Designed by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, the Sagrada Família church is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I didn’t know just how brilliant of an architect Gaudi was until I visited his unfinished masterpiece! Inside the church we found details about the architect’s thought process and painstaking planning work for each little detail of the building. He used an intelligent mathematical design and created a geometrical assembly blueprint that was easy to follow and made for a sturdy structure.

Construction began more than 140 years ago in 1882 and the building is supposed to be completed by 2026, on the 100th anniversary of his designer’s death. When completed, the Sagrada Familia will feature 18 towers with the highest reaching 564 feet into the air.

If you want to read more details about the church’s history, I found this article in Time magazine interesting.

As we walked through the church, we were filled with awe at the magical lighting coming through the colorful stained glass windows and illuminating the massive tree-like columns. I won’t even attempt to describe this magnificent creation and I strongly encourage you to visit it at least once.

Feeling a little overwhelmed but elated at the same time, we discussed our impressions over a traditional lunch.

The next day, we visited yet another Gaudi creation: Casa Milà or La Pedrera (“The stone quarry”). Built between 1906 and 1912 for Pere Milà and his wife Roser Segimon, it was the last private residence designed by architect Antoni Gaudí. Built on Passeig de Gràcia (one of Barcelona’s most prominent avenues), the house broke city codes and the budget, not to mention everyone’s imagination. Although grandiose especially for its time, the house has an harmonious blend of nature-inspired architectural elements, cleverly assembled to allow maximum natural lighting. The building had a complicated journey, but eventually overcame its initial unpopular place in the city’s architecture and made its way to the UNESCO World Heritage list of cultural accomplishments.

Around the corner from Casa Milà, I stopped to admire a beautiful jewelry display that continued the natural theme in which we were just immersed. I later found out that I was looking at MASRIERA pieces, the only continuously produced Art Nouveau jewelry collection in the world.

From the 19th century to present time, their handcrafted jewelry combines floral forms and feminine sensuality into the mystical fusion of “woman and nature.” The original artist LLuís Masriera used unique enamel application techniques such as “plique-à-jour” (a vitreous enamelling technique where the enamel is applied in cells, similar to cloisonné, but with no backing in the final product, so light can shine through the transparent or translucent enamel) and “basse taille” (an enamelling technique in which the artist creates a low-relief pattern in metal, usually silver or gold, by engraving or chasing).

Some of the jewelry seemed to echo the stained glass windows of Sagrada Familia, featuring enamel that allowed the light to pass through. The prices reflected the artistry (think thousands). One can dream….

Another one of Gaudi’s amazing creations, Casa Batlló is a must-see! The façade seems plucked right out of fantasy land, while the interior is a combination of modernism and fairytale, with a nod to the aquatic world (the roof mimics fish scales, rippled windows give the illusion of water). The natural theme continues throughout the building. The loft laundry room resembles animal ribs and its clever design allows for air to circulate and dry clothes. A large window keeps an eye on the popular Passeig de Gràcia, while light filters through stained glass, providing a colorful and playful vibe. The roof terrace features four crooked and polychrome chimney stacks, which are as practical as they are artful (they are designed to prevent back draughts). The entire structure is a modernist masterpiece, perfectly combining form and function.

Our Barcelona cultural immersion culminated with a traditional dinner and dance evening at La Bodega Flamenca de Casa Camarón. I will never forget my parents’ faces, eyes wide with awe and big smiles on their faces as we watched a flamenco show and feasted on paella.

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