The most unique and unforgettable thing about Barcelona is undoubtedly the masterpieces of Antoni Gaudi and architecture of Modernisme.
The biggest and most significant part of the city the Eixample sprang out as an exotic flower. Compared to the city history dated back to pre-Roman times it happened almost overnight as if one day the whole city woke up to a glamorous new Barcelona, beautiful beyond the words.
Modernisme is a Barcelonan incarnation of a short-lived but so influential Art Nouveau movement born in Belgium and France and raised as a tide throughout Europe, living behind wonderful examples of Sezessionstill in Austria, Jugendstill in Germany, Stile Liberty in Italy and Modern Art in England and Scotland of fin-de-siècle. It was gone with a wind by the WW1 to resurrect later in more rational and constructive way as Art Deco in 20-30-es.
Based at the beginning on the colorful and excessively ornamental Moorish/Spanish art Mudejar , Modernisme adopted all the common Art Nouveau motives derived from nature and later transformed to unimaginable extend by Gaudi’s genious vision.
He was million light years ahead of his time but there were quite a few talented architects who adapted Art Nouveau features to unique Catalan style.
Actually this movement started in Barcelona earlier and lasted longer than anywhere else. The architectural exuberance seemed to be a perfect way to express and proclaim the Catalan identity. The tide rolled back but left the magnificent city ashore.
Supported by wealth and official progressive policy Catalan architects created much more than was accomplished in other countries were Art Nouveau flourished brightly but short in architecture and predominantly in interior design, furniture, objets d’art, glassware, illustration, posters, fashion and jewelry. They built Barcelona we can admire today. It was a true Renaissance period for Barcelona and it’s still cherished and celebrated.
As if architects and craftsmen were engaged in an Olympian competition: who can be more creative and inventive in a given city plan, height and street grid.
And believe it or not you won’t see the same ornamental pattern, architectural form, door, roofline, wrought iron balcony or bay window twice. Yet it is built in one style there are so many variations and possibilities to it. You’ll find Gothic and Rococo revivals, melting fluidity of lines, sea and flower motives, grotesque creatures and proportions, gables, masonry, carvings, lanterns, doors and gates of all kinds which never, ever ceased to surprise you.
The only common features are bay windows, balconies and craftsmanship. The city built by artists who worshiped jois de vivre . The carnival of daring forms, color, calligraphic lines and glass reflections, asymmetry and fluidity. Exuberant celebration of life.
It’s not about less is more, it’s about more and more over the top.
All houses at intersections have cut edges and 5 sides which brings octagonal shape to every crossroad, A simple solution to avoid strict and uniform geometry to obtain a sort of roundness, makes it airy, spacious and allows a nice perspective to take the beauty in.
And indeed! There’s so much to take in!
The Catalan architectural legacy in Barcelona is tremendous.
It would be well worth while to compile separate posts for every architectural detail like balconies or windows, gates, street lights and sculptures, stained glass, rooftops etc. I have numerous images of elaborate details. Maybe some day…
Stay tuned for the next series of posts: Antoni Gaudi.
See you soon.
* All images copyright Natalie Rapoport