Sunday, July 11, 2010

On the Road (Europe 2010): Barcelona

Busy day in Barcelona. Started with an early morning tour of Gaudí's Casa Batlló (pronounced casa bahtYO), one of the many fashionable houses that line the Passeig de Gràcia, a restoration and redesign (1904-1906) of a late 19th century building existing on the site. A truly remarkable building. It's hard to imagine a more photogenic piece of architecture. You can look anywhere and the effect is calculated and pleasing. Every detail has been considered. I could post dozens of photos of this place alone.

The use of light is particularly interesting. Gaudí expanded the inner open space in the building that brings light to each floor and added skylights in various places, so that there is natural light almost everywhere. The space is covered in varying shades of tiles evocative of the ocean--as the entire building is--with darker tiles at the top and lighter tiles at the bottom, creating the illusion of even light from top to bottom. Inversely, the windows get larger toward the bottom of the building to bring in more light on the lower floors and block some of the stronger light on the higher floors.

The roof has a sinuous ridge of tiles that made me think of an iguana, although others have likened it to the back of a giant sea creature. The cross-topped tower resembles a bulb of garlic.  A strange and wonderful design. It must have been quite a shock to more conservative tastes at the time of its construction, but the building next door is not exactly tame, and everywhere in Barcelona the facades are richly decorated. Still, nothing is quite like this. It's deservedly famous. The admission price is steep, but I didn't feel cheated, and the money goes to preservation work.

Next visited La Pedrera, another Gaudí design. This is an apartment complex, part of which is open to the public. Another remarkable building, but not so photogenic as the Casa Batlló. I found it interesting mainly for the arched structures that support the roof of the building and for the sheer spaciousness of the apartments. One of these is open to tour. There are many large rooms, a big kitchen, rooms for children, for maids, for sewing.... All attractively lit with natural light.

Following lunch, visited the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, a museum of contemporary art and a research facility with an impressive library of art books. It was created by Antoni Tàpies to promote the study and understanding of modern art. I was hoping to see more work by Tàpies himself there, but the small current exhibit of works by Eva Hesse was interesting. Saw Flamenco after dinner. It was decent, but I've seen far better in Madrid. The World Cup Final match was going on, we could hear the cheering when Spain scored its goal. The dancers were clearly pleased and it showed in the dancing.

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