Winter 2017

Palau Güell

So I only saw two houses in the Block of Discord collection. You know, the only two houses that were right next to each other?

The third house that I saw was a humongous mansion, designed by yours truly, Antoni Gaudí. It’s not part of the Block of Discord  as it’s not located on Passeig de Gràcia, but on a narrow street just off of La Rambla. It was, seriously, just right across the street from my hotel, like a two minute walk.

The house was designed for Gaudí’s good friend and patron, the wealthy industrialist and the same guy who owned Park Güell, Eusebi Güell. Although the place is much darker and edgier than any of Gaudí’s work, it’s not sinister nor gloomy. If anything, it still possesses that same whimsical, quirky quality that is very much Gaudí.  All over the house, from the stables’ entry way to every doorway and even the shape of the central hall, you’ll find Gaudí’s signature pointy arches everywhere. Lots of unusual passages and most of the rooms had a window looking right into the central hall. And if you look up at the very high, three to four-story ceiling on the main floor in the central hall, you’ll find a dark dome speckled with small holes, resembling a starlit night sky. Almost like a mini observatory. Pretty spiffy. Because of that, this is by far my favorite house. Dark, mysterious, but also quirky and whimsical.

I should also mention that when I visited this house, I was very much under the influence of some pretty strong MSG. That lunch I had must’ve been loaded with it because I was so out of it when I saw this place. Added a dreamy quality to it which I actually kinda like, but not really.

Anyway, It was because of this house that I discovered that I actually love Art Nouveau. I hate Art Deco (thanks a lot, Ayn Rand!), but I LOVE Art Nouveau. Anyway, Ima start a GoFundMe to buy this house. Wish me luck.

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Casa Amatller

On the street of Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona, there is a block known as Illa de la Discordia or Mansana de la Discòrdia, translating to the Block of Discord. This term was derived from the fact that on this block are four of the strangest buildings renovated by four of Barcelona’s most well known modernist architects: Gaudi, Enric Sagnier, Lluís Domènech i Montaner and Josep Puig i Cadafalch.

Now, lucky for me and pretty much all of the tourists of Barcelona, two of those buildings happened to be right next each other (yay!). Next to Casa Batlló is Casa Amatller, a pretty house refurbished by Josep Puig i Cadafalch. Unlike the quirkiness of Casa Batlló, this house was a bit more on the traditional side. The outside façade was inspired by the houses in Netherland (yay, funny looking, Dutch houses!), and the inside is more on the gothic side.

The house was once owned by Antoni Amatller, an industrialist and chocolatier. He was also a photographer and collector of Spanish art which were on display at the house. The tour consisted of only one floor of the house which was his residency. The rest of the house is currently being rented out. The lower level was a chocolate shop and café, Chocolate Amatller, dedicated to its founder.

One of the most interesting part of the house was how the water faucets were connected  to the fireplace, thus being one of the first residency in the world to have a water heater. Neat stuff, neat stuff.

Casa Batlló

When I said Gaudí‘s work is everywhere Barcelona, I mean, it is seriously everywhere. From Sagrada Familia, to random houses, to even the tiles on the sidewalks next to La Pedrera, which by the way, he also designed.

Casa Batlló is one such home that Gaudí renovated in the early 20th century. Once owned by Josep Batlló of the renowned Batlló family, Gaudí transformed the home from an unremarkable house into what it is today.

Locals called it Casa dels ossos or House of Bones for the skeletal look about it. From one perspective, yeah, you can definitely see that. But from the way I see it, I thought it had more of an aquatic feel to it. The curves and smoothness of the place reminded me of water. Even the interior walls had the patterns of water reflections.

If I can move into any house Barcelona (hahahaha… *sob), friends would say this is the house for me. It’s quirky and bright and whimsical. Kind of fits my persona. However,  between the two, I actually prefer Palau Güell. But that’s for another post. Yay.

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Inside Sagrada Famila

The inside of Sagrada Familia is all Gaudí and no other artist or architect.

Nature and religion are the two biggest influence of his work and you can see it here in the surroundings. The colorful lights are all natural lighting from the stain glass. The pillars were all inspired by trees, branching out to the ceiling.  It’s quite spectacular. Seeing this place had always been a dream of mine. I even got to climb up to the towers (they got elevators, so ha).

Now I can’t say I know much about Gaudí. I know he was somewhat of an introvert. He always kept to himself to the point where people often mistook him for a blunt, arrogant and anti-social man,  but his closest friends described him as faithful, friendly and kind. It kind of paints a picture of some people I know. He once portrayed himself as a new-moneyish type of guy where he tried to show off how well off he was during his early successes, but later lived a more humble, frugal lifestyle in his later years to his death. Humility was something he lived by. He intended for Sagrada Familia to reach nearly the heights of the Montjuïc mountains, the highest point of Barcelona, only to be short by one meter because he believed that nothing man-made should ever be higher than God’s work. When La Sagrada Familia is completed, it will have 18 towers. 12 of the towers will represent the apostles, four of them will represent the evangelists, one will be designated for the Virgin Mary, and of course the last one, the highest one in the middle, will represent Jesus Christ. However, right now there are only eight towers.

Gaudí passed away in 1926, a few days after being struck by a tram. Because of his humble, meager appearance, no one recognized him as the architect behind the most renowned structure in Barcelona. He is now buried in the crypt of Sagrada Familia.

There is more I would like to say about Gaudí as he is the most central figure in Barcelona, but hey, his works are all over Barcelona and I’ve got three more posts about it. But as I’ve said before, this is his most signature work so yeah… look at it!

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Sagrada Familia

So this is the structure that started my fascination with gothic architecture. It’s not quite the traditional kind. It is, after all, fairly new, following along the lines of Catalan modernism, but definitely heavy with gothic influence.

As I mentioned before, I was first introduced to Sagrada Família from an architecture book I came across while working at the campus library during my college years. It was one of those photographs where I had to do a double take. At first quick glance, it was just another one of those typical cathedrals, until I started noticing all the unusual details about it. There was definitely nothing traditional about it. On one side, it was ornate and over-the-top, the other was sharp and simple. I was intrigued.

From what I’ve read back then, Sagrada Família is the largest unfinished church in the world. Construction started in 1882 and is still ongoing. There are three planned facades based on the life of Christ (or the three original mysteries, if you’re Catholic), two of which are already constructed. One is the Nativity and the other is the Passion, both designed by two completely different artists, an architect and a sculptor, separated by two generations.

The original architect, Antoni Gaudí, died from an accident in 1926, just after the crypt, apse and part of the Nativity facade were completed. The sculptor who designed the Passion facade, Josep Maria Subirachs, was a bit more controversial as his sharp, angular designs were a huge contrast to Gaudí’s designs. I’m sure this bothers some people, as it does interferes with the continuity in the designs, but Gaudí had intended the Passion facade to be more on the simpler side. And considering the differences between the two narratives, I thought it was kind of fitting. Opulent and ornate for birth of Christ, sharp and cutting for the crucifixion. Very fitting.

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Inside Barcelona Cathedral

One of the many things I love about gothic cathedrals is that while they’re incredibly extravagant on the outside, on the inside, they tend to be more on the simpler side. Understated, yet still grand and overwhelming in terms of size and structure,  very much unlike the neoclassical/baroque styles of the basilicas and cathedrals in Rome. You know, those crazy ornate ones that uses different colored-marbles and stones along with paintings, mosaics and gold leaf. Just like Notre Dame, this one is all just gray and stone. Simple, quiet, almost peaceful.

Oh, and then they have geese outside in what I can only describe as the “patio” area. I have no idea what they would call patio area in a cathedral, but whatever it is, they got geese. How cool is that?

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Barcelona Cathedral

As much as I love natural structures and sights, I am equally amazed by man-made wonders. Like, how in the world can the humble minds of humanity create something so ridiculously elaborate and detailed? I’ve always had a fascination with architectures, specifically gothic cathedrals ever since I came across a book about the modern, gothic-inspired Sagrada Familia when I used to work in the university library. That was the main event of the whole trip, until this spot came along.

I stumbled upon the Barcelona Cathedral, not completely by accident. It was one of those places that I saw in a map while planning my trip. It happened to be in the Gothic Quarters, close to the Picasso museum and next to the mini Dali museum so I figured maybe when I have the time, I’ll stop by it. Well, little did I know how close everything was to La Rambla. The Gothic Quarters was RIGHT there on one side of La Rambla. Seriously, my hotel was part of the Gothic Quarters. Pretty exciting when I discovered that.

The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia or the Barcelona Cathedral for short, was constructed sometime around the 13th to 15th century. It actually wasn’t that grand then as you can see below.

The Gothic façade wasn’t added until late 19th century around 1880’s by Josep Oriol Mestres and August Font i Carreras. These two men are my heroes.

When I did finally came across the cathedral on my way to the Picasso museum, I was in awe. These are the type of structures I’ve always looked up and dreamed of seeing when I was just a very curious college kid. It’s even more awesome when I came across it unexpectedly. So purty. I even managed to get on top and get a shot of Sagrada Familia. But that’s for another post.

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