Monday April 2, Barcelona


Started this morning by returning to the Catedral. I know, that seems like an indoor thing that could wait until the afternoon rains, but I wanted to go up on the roof, and that wouldnít be so fun in the rain. Despite the grey morning, the view from the roof was great, and very interesting to be up among the spires and rose windows and all. A bit windy, but not cold.

A couple of errands on La Rambla, and then I took the subway to Sagrada Familia, Antonio Gaudiís famous grand church. You may remember from Saturdayís lecture :-) that he was strongly influenced by nature and natural forms, both animal and vegetable, and also their recreation in mineral forms (that is, stone). This monumental church is certainly no exception. Itís easy to see the way he has used forms from nature to create his designs. Itís definitely modern, and some will find it un-churchlike (I overheard some other visitors saying that). It did feel like a cathedral to me Ė though the details are modernist and unlike any church I ever saw, the overriding concept is still there. The church is still under construction (after 100 years plus), which isnít surprising given its cathedral proportions (Gaudiís design calls for towers taller than the Barcelona Catedral), unusual designs, and necessity for totally handcrafted creation at every stage. The up side of this is, of course, that one gets to see work in progress. The down side is all the scaffolding, construction mess, dusty air (they really should hand out breathing masks, and Iím still feeling the grit in my eyes tonight), and of course not being able to see the finished product. Perhaps in another 100 years . . . The portion that is completed includes a small forest of tall slender towers spiking up into the sky, and so much detail in the stonework that it would take weeks to study it all. Itís impossible for me to describe the place adequately, so I refer you instead to a few photos at http://www.greatbuildings.com/buildings/Sagrada_Familia.html

Between the church itself, inside and out, and the museum in the understory, it takes quite a while to visit this adequately. So it was well after noon when I was through. My next visit was to another Gaudi creation, Casa Batllo. This is an apartment building that Gaudi renovated in his modernist style, and I have to say I loved it. There wasnít a straight line in the place, everything flowed with incredibly natural curves. The overriding motives were of the ocean Ė water, fish scales, shells, whirlpools, waves, the blue section of the color spectrum. Pretty fantastic. And his use of light was phenomenal. The 5-story building is constructed with an elevator shaft in the center, wrapped with a staircase; on either side of this central core is a small Ďcourtyardí open to the light, and then the rooms of the building are all built around one of the courtyards. So every room has natural light, even the Ďinsideí rooms. Added to this is the use of stained glass where the light might be too intense; smaller windows near the top of the building, larger towards the bottom to compensate for the change in light entering; shading of colors for the tiled courtyard walls from deep colors at the top (where the sunlight would hit strongest and bleach it out visually) to very pastel deep in the cavity where less light would reach; again, thereís way too much to talk about! But itís a spectacular creation, and actually worth the exhorbitant entry fee.

It had started to rain just as I arrived at Casa Batllo; by the time I was ready to see the roof it was absolutely pouring. But I went up anyway, and enjoyed (briefly) the fanciful, colorful, freeform chimneys before ducking back inside. The attic space was marvelous too Ė set up, as I guess Spanish apartment buildings usually are, with a laundry room for each resident, ventilated ingeniously so clothes could be hung to dry inside, and again, curves everywhere. He really went to town with parabolic arches here, and the effect is to make what might seem a dreary workspace a real delight. I canít readily locate a website that has good interior photos Ė I hope mine will capture some of the delight of this place.

The rain just got worse. It was after 3 PM by the time I was finished seeing Casa Batllo, and this being Monday there werenít a lot of other good choices for indoor activity. I took a quick look at the big Mercat (market building) just off La Rambla, but it was already mostly closed for the day. Iíll have to try back in the morning. Grabbed a late lunch near my hotel, and then had to give up for the day.

In the evening the rain was less fierce, and I ventured out in search of dinner. My first choice turned out to be closed, the second didnít serve until 8:30, but then I thought of going to Els Quatre Gats (thatís Catalan for the Four Cats), a cafť restaurant tucked away on an obscure little alleyway, that was a favorite of Picasso. It certainly had atmosphere Ė very attractive decor, waiters who looked like they could be from 1940 as easily as 2007, quite good food, and rather bad live violin and piano music. The pianist wasnít so bad, but his piano was out of tune, and the violinist seemed incapable of playing in tune. Still, theyíve probably been playing there for 40 years or so Ė or maybe longer! I didnít recognize the tunes, but they sounded like they were probably from the 1920's or 1930's.

Itís raining hard again. Iím glad not to be out in it. I do hope it will clear up in the morning, but if not, I have mostly indoor things in mind. Itís just the getting around between them on foot thatís not too appealing!

Love to all,

Carlyn

Last updated 12/07. Copyright 2007 by Richard C. Morenus. Questions? Send email to richard.c@morenus.org