BARCELONA — The mark of any great city its historical, cultural landmarks. And there can be no mention of Barcelona without acknowledging Antoni Gaudí's, whose influence on its cityscape cannot not be overstated. Some of Barcelona's most iconic architecture — indeed some of Europe's most renowned — is the work of the esteemed Catalan architect who is, to a large degree, responsible for how the world sees Barcelona. His highly unique work lends a striking aesthetic style to Barcelona, a town beloved for its soccer team, its food markets and cuisine, the climate, and the late-night scene.
Antoni Gaudí, who lived from 1852-1926 and worked across the 19th and 20th centuries, is credited as one of the leading figures of Catalan Modernism. Influenced by neo-Gothic art and techniques originating in the Orient, Gaudí’s work took inspiration from different parts of his life: his passion for architecture, his appreciation of nature, and his religious beliefs. The latter was incredibly important in Gaudí’s life, with his Roman Catholic faith reflected in some of his most esteemed works through religious symbolism and imagery. But it would be remiss to suggest Gaudí only influenced the architecture of Barcelona. On the contrary, his crafts extended to glasswork, carpentry, and ceramics, to name just a few of the many disciplines he mastered.
Gaudí’s legacy has never faded, with the global popularity of his works and the fact he is considered a household name demonstrating this. Seven of his works have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites, proving his impact extends beyond merely creating tourist attractions. Gaudí has defined the very image of Barcelona, most notably through his two key and unmissable sites: Sagrada Familia and Casa Batlló.
Sagrada Familia in the heart of the city is undoubtedly Gaudí’s masterpiece. Construction on the building began in 1882 — and remains incomplete even today. There are myriad reasons for this slow progress. Construction was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, as Gaudí’s original plans and models were partially destroyed. Moreover, the designs are incredibly complex and intricate: Ten more spires need to be added before construction can be considered completed. But despite of the incomplete nature of the work, Sagrada Família stands as one of the most popular — and beautiful, moving, inspiring — if not the most popular tourist attractions in all of Spain, drawing millions every year. Completion is scheduled to coincide with the centenary of Gaudí’s death in 2026, at which point it will become even more appealing, beautiful, and inspiring.
Casa Batlló is a smaller but just as seminal work. Gaudí's 1904 remodelling of an existing house along the popular Passeig de Gràcia boulevard in the Eixample neighborhood sits alongside other homes in the Catalan Modernist style. But the house, known locally as the "House of Bones," is hard to miss for its striking skeletal appearance and its unique aesthetics. The façade is a mosaic of ceramic tiles; the arched roof is animalistic in appearance and lacks any straight lines. The interiors — a harmony of color and forward-thinking designs — are evocatively brought to life through a virtual reality experience that lets visitors experience the house as it was 100 years ago and as it is today. Gaudí’s influence on Barcelona, indeed on all of Spain, cannot be missed by even a casual visitor — and his designs proved truly innovative in the legacy they have created.
Photos courtesy of Casa Battló and Sagrada Família.