Our hotel in Barcelona was literally pushed and squeezed into a small space between the narrow alleys in Ciutat Vella. Taking the picture of its front was almost impossible. Our windows view consisted of street below and windows of the building opposite located so close you could easily install a cord and hang laundry on it. Every evening on our way back we could smell and almost taste marijuana, subtly marking its presence and finding its way into our noses. Despite an enormous efforts of all our friends and family members, works colleagues and neighbours trying to warn us about being robbed, I felt safer than when we went to Rome and witnessed thieves in action near the Colosseum.
2.5 days for Barcelona is not enough, it is just a start. However it was quite enough to try and chase a little bit of a spirit of Antoni Gaudi – the men responsible for architectural shape of Barcelona.
It was 25 June 1852. On this hot day on the Mediterranean coast of Spain Antoni Gaudi was born. His father was a boilermaker. Antoni became an architect. On his graduation in 1878 from Barcelona’s School of Architecture, its director announced: “Who knows if we have given this diploma to a nut or to a genius. Time will tell.” Looking at Gaudi’s ideas I was wandering if the genius did not go a little bit on a crazy side…
On 7 June 1926 he was run by a tram and taken to a hospital. No one recognized him and as his condition did not improve, he died on 10 June 1926 in old hospital El Raval, not in, as many people think, Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau – which would be quite romantic for the story, bearing in mind that you can actually see Sagrada Familia from the hospital grounds. Nowadays El Raval is the home of the medical faculty and the Catalan State Library.
Gaudi was a deeply faithful men, he never married and hated new shoes. His health was poor and he became a vegetarian quite early in his life. He befriended hugely successful businessman – Eusebi Güell and under his protection constructed Palau Guell and Park Guell. These projects allowed him to develop his unique style. Deep influence of the Oriental movement can be seen in Palau Guell and organic style in Park Guell and Sagrada Familia.
Guell his huge success owned the industrial revolution in Catalonia in the late 19th century. Born in Barcelona to the family of Joan Güell i Ferrer, a wealthy industrialist from Torredembarra, who became rich during his stay in Cuba and could develop his wealth later on after returning to Barcelona, Eusebi quickly learnt how to make money.
Guell and Gaudi met during World Fair held in Paris in 1878 and became lifelong friends, spending time together on lengthy conversations about religion and architecture. Guell saw in Gaudi a man who could give him a unique architecture experience. After all he allowed him to design his home – Palau Guell and got involved hugely with a project for the rich in Park Guell.
Gaudi unusual ideas made Barcelona a special place. His fascinating and unique style penetrated the city to the bone and its habitants are proud to be able to show everyone who, without a doubt, made their town one of the best architectural experiences in Europe.