Saturday, May 17, 2014

where there never was a church

Today was a day of improvisation.

I had one goal in mind -- to get a ticket for tonight's performance of the Barcelona Orchestra.  The easy way would have been to take a taxi -- or that spiffy Maserati that has been parked in front of the hotel for the past three days. 

The day before there were two.  I suspect it belongs to the top-hatted doorman in the background.

By now, you know that I like walking.  Google Maps told me it would take me just under an hour to walk 3 miles.  That seems awfully slow.  But Google knows its customers.  I tend to wander off of the path.

Google suggested that I take a short cut through a park honoring the heroes of Barcelona who fought against the French invaders in 1715 or thereabouts.  Spain wears its history like a ragged trench coat.

And I was distracted.  By a church honoring Spain's military.  By a flock of green parrots (escapees from the neighboring zoo, I suppose).  By the Catalan Parliamentary building (which may one of these days be a national parliament).  And by this rather gaudy fountain that looks as if it is a cross between the Queen Victoria and Victor Immanuel monuments.

If I remember correctly, this thing was built for the same exhibition when Columbus was erected on that column we discussed earlier.

And just to prove that Barcelona has not lost its touch in architecture, take a look at this beauty.  The Torre Agbar -- 38 stories of metaphors in the making.  I call it the pickle, but it looks as if it could be a crashed dirigible.  Or any number of other things.

Agbar is one of those multinational companies that owns other companies.  Maybe they keep them stashed in boxes on the top floors.

When I first saw this, it looked like the opening and closing scenes of Cabaret.  Those reflections are of market stalls below a giant reflective roof set in separate pieces.  Form over substance -- in the Spanish mode.

Finally, I made it to the auditorium ticket office.  And after giving them 51 Euros, they gave me a ticket.

But the day was not done.  As I left the auditorium, I realized I was within walking distance of my favorite site in Barcelona -- Antoni Gaudí's Sagrada Família church.  It has been under construction since 1882.  In the crypt are several photographs from the 1920s.  From the exterior, it appears that little progress has been made.

It obviously has, though.  You can see the difference in the weathering of the stone.

I remember seeing pictures of the place when I was 10 or so.  There was something very boyish about it.  The design was right out of a fantasy.  Like this mixture of fruit and vegetables that decorate the spires.

And it looked as if it had been iced, and then the heat had started melting the icing.  It still looks that way to me.

But my big surprise on this trip was the interior.  When I last walked through, very little of the interior had been completed.  Take a look at what it looks like now.

The I-can't-take-it-anymore pope showed up almost four years ago to dedicate it as a minor basilica.  It can't be a cathedral because a bishop will not sit there.  He has his chair in the Barcelona cathedral closer to the center of town.

This place far outshines the cathedral -- literally.  Most European churches seem to be adverse to light.  Gaudi wanted to change that. 

And he wanted worshipers to feel as if they were closer to God's nature by being part of nature.  The interior columns reflect Gaudi's organic architecture style.  I almost felt as if I were sitting in a grove.

I guess it was more appropriate than I first realized because my last view of the church was its spires emerging from the trees of a park across the street.  That view deserves a future reprise.

Wait a minute!  That sounds as if it was the end of my day.  It wasn't.  I decided to track down some of Gaudi's other projects in Barcelona.

First, let me share a non-Gaudi building with you.  It is C
asa de les Punxes -- a grand design by the moderist architecture Josep Puig i Cadafalch. A rival of Gaudi.  I include it for two reasons.  First, it is a very good example of the new style that was appearing in Barcelona in the early twentieth century.

The second reason is that any Potter fans out there may see a resemblance to another piece of architecture.

ere is one Gaudi project I have seen several times in passing, but I have never had time to stop -- Casa Milà, or as it is known locally, La Pedrera.  I remember it from my college art appreciation class.  And it was right on my route.

But it was my day to be a bit disappointed.  The exterior is being refurbished.  However, the contractor was nice enough to provide us with a life-size photographic cover.  Maybe next time.

The last house was the Casa Batlló.  It is actually a remodel.  In 1904.  For a wealthy industrialist who wanted to make an impression in one of the most prestigious areas of town.

It is on the right.  The house on the left was designed by
Puig i Cadafalch.  A slam down on the boulevard of fame.

The area still is prestigious -- for those people who find their self-worth in wearing the names of other people on their clothing.  It seems a bit inconsistent, but who am I to attempt to right the ship of consumerism?

And then I was off to the hotel -- where I arrived just in time to clean up and grab a taxi back to the auditorium.

I will see you after the concert.

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