Barcelona, Gaudi and mosaics

A couple of years ago I enjoyed an Autumn break in Barcelona. Looking through my photographs recently, I thought it would be nice to share them. The main difficulty was in deciding which images to share!

My overwhelming impression of Barcelona was that if it doesn’t move, then it gets decorated with mosaics. Even the trees look to be covered in mosaics (yes, that is the tree bark on the left), and I love the building with the umbrella ‘mosaic’.

Much of the best known mosaic work in Barcelona is the work of Gaudi. It’s a difficult choice, but Casa Batlló was probably my favourite of Gaudi’s buildings. As well as being the architect of this building Gaudi was also able to design the interiors, including light fittings, door handles and even decorative (but efficient) ventilation systems. It is designed in its entirety. The main central hall has tiles of varying shades to compensate for the amount of light that reaches different levels – there is such attention to detail here. But I also particularly liked the stables and gate at Finca Güell, especially the idea of putting bright mosaic pieces into the mortar in the brickwork.

But Barcelona is more than just Gaudi’s mosaics. The Palau de la Música Catalana is stunning. Designed and built in the early 20th Century when Gaudi was also designing, it has a more structured and illustrative style while still employing the mosaic technique. One day I hope to go back and see the inside of this impressive building. There is only so much you can do on a short city break.

What I particularly like about Gaudi’s work is the joyful randomness of the mosaics. The pieces were not cut into perfect regular shapes and exactly placed into geometric patterns. There was always the feel of the work being hand-crafted rather then precision engineered. To create that feeling of almost casual randomness takes a great level of skill and confidence.

Before my visit to Barcelona I knew of Gaudi, but I didn’t understand very much about his work. Nothing prepared me for the explosion of colours, shapes, and textures that his work presented. I was also surprised to discover the diversity of his work, and the way he referred to legends and his cultural history. Casa Batlló is actually based around the story of Sant Jordi (or Saint George) who is the patron saint of Catalonia. A good explanation can be found here. And the wonderful dragon gate at Finca Güell was also inspired by literature and legend.

Visiting Barcelona gave me a much wider appreciation of Gaudi’s work. He paid great attention to detail, wanting everything to work together to tell a coherent visual story. And he worked in so many media and different design disciplines. This attention to detail is evident in the scale and structure of Sagrada Família, where you an also see his models and working drawings that he used to calculate the various architectural constraints.

Barcelona is a beautiful and inspiring city to visit. The bus tours are great to help familiarise yourself with the city before deciding where you want to focus your time. Although I visited many places, there are others that I simply didn’t have time for. So one day I will return, as I am sure there are plenty more sights waiting there to wow me.

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