Sunday, October 7, 2007

Antoni Gaudi

Jean Miro and Antoni Gaudi

While in Barcelona, we went to the much-lauded Jean Miro museum where we were much disappointed. After being inside comfortable and interesting Gaudi buildings, the Miro felt, sounded and looked harsh, angular and rough. The sounds of people moving and talking became as prickly as the cacti on the hill we had just gotten lost on. The temporary installation on the lower level included staccato music that bounced like verbal glass shards and after a while sitting in the museum made contemplating anything other than the fact that Gaudi could have made a great museum instead of having construction crews pour a pile of concrete walls and floors.

I can’t say that Miro's work soared above the building. The large weaving near the entry was impressive and a two sided tile had nice color and texture on the hidden side. The egg sculptures here and there were pleasing and some of the landscapes were pleasant enough but the black and white “fireworks” and the contemplation for a recluse (or something like that) were depressing and many of the works were titled “painting”. Was that the best he could do?

Person after person walked through whispering “Brilliant” and I didn't get it. Couldn't even figure out what "it" was.

When we were in the Gaudi buildings, the rooms were easily as densely populated as the rooms in the Miro yet the noise in Gaudi-spaces was always a dissipated hum. The rounded corners and doorways didn’t bat the sounds around as if they were huge wings on pinball machines but they guided voices to listeners and absorbed footfalls. The Gaudi buildings were designed to be comfortable and to provide for the flow of air and sound. The art museum was designed as a surface for display with no thought for the comfort of visitors or workers.

Casa Batllo was marvelous with shiny tiles, unexpected door panels, curved wood work, stained glass windows, fish scale details on walls, a mushroom-shaped nook with a chocolate brown fireplace and ceilings that swirl.

La Paderera is a mass of creativity and comfort. It's modern but ageless and nothing if not different.

Having said that, Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's cathedral, isn’t my favorite place. Eighth wonder of the world though it may become when finished in 2050, I find the facade of the Nativity to be roughly swirled – a concrete head with naturally curly hair that has been in humidity and wind for 100 years already and twists in every direction with no pattern or place for the eye to rest. Rick says it is like a super large candle that has melted and dripped and then solidified into a huge waxy glob.

The spires are impressive and I think I like the multicolored fruits and eyes of god on top of them but there is so very much happening on the exterior walls that just looking at the shapes and shadows might drive a person mad. How did the workers ever manage to create it?

Inside it’s different. There are many calm surfaces and great stained glass colors and more stained glass to come in the next 4 decades and the massive amount of materials (rock, concrete, steel, glass, marbles from around Europe) staggers the mind as does the idea that the cathedral has been in progress since 1888 and won’t be finished for another 43 years.

It’s exciting to see a cathedral be constructed because it is such a massive and complex object. It’s an interesting project. Outside there's a lot of this and that - stuff I won’t live to see finished to make a final assessment. Inside, I like it. The columns have lines from floor to ceiling. The exterior walls are clearly defined and the stained glass installed so far puts blurs of orange and blue across people and floors. Again, hordes of people stand, walk and explore while construction workers pursue their tasks but the noise is never deafening and there are lots of shapes to look at and enjoy with places to draw the eye onward as well as to give allow pause. Inside, it feels like Gaudi while outside it's gaudy but everywhere it's a heck of a building.

1 comment:

Josh said...

Barcelona’s most famous and brilliant modernist architect, Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926), built his best works in this city. The works of Antoni Gaudi dominate the city of Barcelona. Whilst the city is both modern and cosmopolitan in nature, it has a rich history in architecture and the arts. While you are in Barcelona, definitely you should dedicate plenty time to seeing Gaudi’s works and not just staying in Barcelona hotels, but to visi the Sagrada Familia which is his most famous attraction. Other the most visited of his works after the unfinished Gaudi cathedral include Park Guell, Casa Mila, and Casa Batllo.