Monday, May 19, 2008

gaudi, but plain

We have all had it happen. You are listening to a song -- reading a book -- watching a play, and suddenly you have a faint reminder of some other song, book, or play. I call them memory echos.

There is a very clever example in Stephen Sondheim's "Finishing the Hat" from Sunday in the Park with George. George reminisces about a lost love, and the orchestra plays two simple notes: the same two notes that open "The Way We Were." Memory. Just hearing the lyric evokes the echo.

Well, the same thing happened to me on Saturday night when I saw
John's recent photographs of the Zacatecas Cathedral. The cathedral is built in a high Baroque style with rows of bas relief decoration. Take a look at his photographs -- especially, the facade lit up at night to appreciate the intricate detail.

It took me a bit to recognize the echo. But I looked through my photographs and confirmed the resounding notes.

I suspect the most famous nineteenth/twentieth century cathedral is Gaudi's Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Now, I know I just lost a few of you, who have consigned me to the "he's nuts" category. After all Gaudi's masterpiece is often compared to a melting wedding cake. And it is true that his designs are the very essence of expressionist architecture -- what Dali would have built if he had talent.

But look closer at Gaudi's detail on the Nativity facade. It is every bit as structural as the Zacatecas cathedral. The pillars still support the structure and provide the stage upon which the saints can strut.

Reduced to their essence, both buildings echo the same architectural force. And that may be because they both start with a basic house where God can be worshipped and where the extraneous decoration is, literally, just a facade.

But both structures are places of beauty and part of our shared western civilization -- even when the architecture of that civilization appears to jump off the page of a Tolkien novel.


Anonymous said...

that would work. i'd never heard of steen mountain before. not too many pictures on the internet. do you have any you can share? there was one that looked really beautiful!

que tengas un buen dia!


Michael Dickson said...

My wife used to work for the Mexican highway system. She traveled all over the country due to her job, hitting every state except Quintana Roo.

Of every place she visited, Zacatecas was her favorite. I went there just once. It´s great. Also, it´s the Colonial city closest to the U.S. border. Alas, the weather is extreme. Very hot in the summer and, due to being the second highest major city in Mexico (after Toluca), very cold in the winter. Few Gringos live there, if any.

The Gringos live about 50 miles south of Zacatecas in the small city of Jerez.

Steve Cotton said...

teresa -- I do not have any photographs of our trips to Steens Mountain. I was in one of my non-camera stages. Blogging has helped to get the shutter working again.

Babs said...

Hope you see the Parroquia here some day - it is "gaudiesque" also. Supposedly patterned from a postcard of a church in Spain.....It's wonderful that you pick up on these things! Echos, love it!

wayne said...

I remember seeing this when I was in Barcelona while still in my 20's. Many moons ago! In Spain, I got to see Dali's house, all covered with netting and giant Easter egss! I think you are going to like Las Pozas near Xilitla, very Daliesque. Get there before it crumbles into the rain forest from lack of care.

Steve Cotton said...

Babs and Wayne -- I am ready to jump a plabe tonight.

Steve Cotton said...

Plane. It is supposed to ewad -- plane.