Barcelona’s city streets are peppered with the work of the famous modernist architect Antoni Gaudi. His unique contribution to the Art Nouveau movement is on display throughout Barcelona, and each building of his is more distinctive than the last. Even if you don’t know anything about architecture, you’ll be able to spot a Gaudi building a mile away, making a Barcelona holiday an exciting treasure hunt as well as a chance to explore the city! Here’s our breakdown of the most significant Gaudi buildings and structures in Barcelona, Spain.
La Sagrada Familia Cathedral
The most famous of Gaudi’s works and a must see on city breaks to Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia has been under construction since 1892, and is not expected to be finished until around 2030. The cathedral is Barcelona‘s most iconic landmark, attracting thousands of visitors every year. The church was built with an overriding theme of nature and religion – as was the case with many of Gaudi’s designs – and even from the outside you can see incredibly elaborate stone carvings of scenes from Christianity, including the Nativity and the Passion of Christ. Each of the beautifully ornate spires represents one of the Twelve Apostles and the Evangelists, as well as Jesus and Mary themselves.
Inside the Cathedral, perhaps the most striking features are the brightly-coloured textured columns, designed by Gaudi to “branch” at the ceiling, giving the impression that you are standing underneath a canopy of trees. In true Gaudi style, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a single flat surface, as the intricate decoration continues throughout the building. Make your way up the tower to see the spires’ amazing nature-themed sculptures up close, and discover stunning views from 500 feet above the city. The Sagrada Familia is nothing short of magical, a must-see during a Gaudi tour of Barcelona.
Eusebi Güell, a great Catalan entrepreneur, employed Gaudi on several occasions to design unique buildings and structures. Parc Guell is a public park built in the early 1900s, originally as a high-class housing development, away from the smoke and noise of industrial Barcelona. The development fell through, but the park remains as much of a retreat from the city streets, and is still perfect for a day’s exploring. Gaudi’s influence can be seen from the moment you step through the gates, from the two gingerbread house-like buildings at the entrance to the park, with spiked rooftops and attractive spires, to the incredibly elegant main terrace. The terrace is constructed to look like a sea serpent, complete with colourful mosaic design and a sweeping wall, with built-in benches and look-out points. The gardens themselves offer a beautiful and strange mix of plant life, with even a few palm trees dotted along the footpaths. Inside the park you’ll also find Antoni Gaudi’s former home, which now houses a museum dedicated to his life and some of his smaller pieces, including furniture and designs.
Gaudi was commissioned to build or renovate several residential buildings throughout his career, whether as family mansions or stylish modern apartments. Gaudi applied his own inimitable style to each, and the houses remain monuments to his early work.
Casa Mila, otherwise known as la Pedrera, is a commanding apartment building of stone with wrought-iron balconies and windows, and a wave-like facade that makes the building stand out on the Gracia district’s main promenade. Controversial at the time for its heavy use of religious iconography, the attic and terrace is now open to the public, where you’ll find a reconstructed modernist apartment, beautiful indoor courtyards, and a characteristic rooftop with colourful stone chimneys and excellent views.
Casa Batlló has been locally dubbed “the house of bones” thanks to its eerily skeletal facade, made up of bone-like columns and stone window terraces. Broken ceramic tiles make up the orange and blue front exterior, while the shining blue and green roof tiles have been compared to the scales of a dragon, giving rise to the theory that the whole building is a symbol of Saint George’s battle with the dragon. Inside the building, you can explore the Batlló family stately home, an equally surreal design of unconventional shapes and colours.
Casa Vicens was built in the late 1800s and served as Gaudi’s first important large work. Rather than the organic, life-like designs of his later years, Casa Vicens is relatively formulaic, with a flat facade flanked by two corner pillars and small spires; however, the blend of Modernism and Orientalism employed still makes it instantly noticeable as a Gaudi design. The brickwork and ceramic materials on the front of the building pay tribute to the owner of the building, Manuel Vicens, who ran a brick and tile business, and floral and chequerboard patterns can be seen covering the whole building. Casa Vicens is still a private residence and therefore the inside cannot be visited, but the building is an important landmark in Gaudi’s career, not to be missed.
Barcelona’s cultural influence on Catalonia can be directly attributed to the work of Antoni Gaudi, who created so many icons of the region’s capital city before he passed away in 1926, seeing his works has become one of the best things to do in Barcelona. His legacy was carried on long after his death, and the Gothic-Modernist spires and rooftops across are a clear example of the architect’s effect on the city’s art and design community. Explore on your own, or pick up a Gaudi tour ticket, to see as much of his work during your time on your Barcelona holidays.
All images via Wikimedia Commons.