Benedetta Tagliabue Miralles guides us through a journey between the unknown masterpieces of Gaudì and the futuristic constructions of Enric Miralles
The people in Barcelona love to give nicknames. Antoni Gaudì, genius of the Catalan’s modernism and supporter of the city’s architectural development between the XIX and the XX century, was called “the architect of God”; while Enric Miralles, who has worked in our time and who has left, just like Gaudì, an unforgettable mark on his city, was called “the Gaudì of our age”.
Loaded with Catalan pride, they interpret the passion for their work in two different ways. And still, they remain united by the same common thread: the love for Barcelona.
Gaudì wanted to recreate reality almost obsessively: he studied different materials with which he created “crazy”, unpredictable, dreamlike forms. Its accuracy came to a point that he had to move to the construction site of the “Sagrada Familia” and here he lived the last 14 years of his life, working and breathing for his most amazing masterpiece, still now under construction, which was meant to approach the Earth with Heaven.
BENEDETTA TAGLIABUE MIRALLES
Enric Miralles – as explains his wife and partner Benedetta Tagliabue Miralles with whom he founded the “EMBT” studio in 1990 – is characterized by an architectural language influenced by national and international artists, and by his manner of expressing life through art.
The studio, conducted by Benedetta, has worked this year in the construction of the “Duomo COPAGRI” for EXPO Milan. It’s known internationally for working both in Europe and Asia and in the United States. The new Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh in 2004 and the Spanish Pavilion for EXPO Shanghai 2010; the Taichung Tower in Taiwan and many others.
This itinerary that she proposes winds through the most famous monuments and the most unknown, also outside the city centre. We advise you to complete the route in several days and to enjoy Barcelona by foot, as for the buildings in the city centre, while for the more decentralized ones we recommend the car or public transportation.
IN THE CITY CENTRE OF BARCELONA
Antoni Gaudì: the lamps in “Plaça Reial”
Plaça Reial, 08002 Barcelona
Mistakenly people think that the first work of Gaudì is the “Casa Vicens”, but it is actually these street lamps in the “Plaça Reial” that he did when he just graduated in architecture and are located adjacent to the popular (and touristic) area of La Rambla. At night, especially in summer, the square comes alive with people who come to eat at the small restaurants nearby or to listen to outdoor concerts.
Antoni Gaudì: Palau Güell
Carrer Nou de la Rambla 3-5, 08001 Barcelona – +34 934 72 57 75
Built as a city house for his patron Eusebi Güell between 1885 and 1889, it is now open for a fee and was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The façade blends neo-gothic and oriental motifs, while in the inside, a must visit is the living room on the main floor. Beside the beautiful decoration of this room, the main feature are the holes in the ceiling where the lanterns were put in order to make it look like a starry sky in the evening.
EMBT: Mercat de Santa Caterina
Avinguda de Francesc Cambó 16, 08003 Barcelona
From the Cathedral of Barcelona is impossible not to notice the corrugated and colored roof with many people swarming around the entrance of this building. The beautiful market, refurbished by “EMBT” in 2005, is home to a myriad of stalls selling vegetables, cheese, meat and fresh fruits. It also has won the “Premi Nacional de Catalunya” (“National Catalonia Award”) in the category “Heritage”.
Antoni Gaudì: Casa Calvet
Carrer de Casp 48, 08008 Barcelona – +34 934 12 40 12
Built in 1899 in the Eixample neighborhood, the elegant district of the city, for a textile manufacturer, this building is perhaps the most conservative of all Gaudì’s works. The façade in fact does not have the usual “crazy” motifs, but it is characterized by a more classical aesthetic, almost rigid, emphasized by the use of stone and metal.
Antoni Gaudì: Casa Batlló
Passeig de Gràcia 43, 08007 Barcelona – +34 932 16 03 06
Renovated by Gaudì between 1904 and 1907 and a UNESCO heritage since 2005, it is one of the most original works of the artist. The façade is characterized by sinuous forms emphasized by the technique of trencadís, very bright and fragmented ceramics, that enclose the large loggia on the first floor; while the top part of the façade is entirely covered with tiles of glazed ceramics that recall the skin of a reptile.
Antoni Gaudì: Casa Milà o La Pedrera
Passeig de Gràcia 92, 08008 Barcelona – +34 902 20 21 38
One of the most famous and provocative works of Gaudì, this house, built for private clients between 1906 and 1912, was conceived as a gigantic triumph of the curve: the entire building is in fact devoid of straight lines, even in the courtyards and in the apartments. The outside of the building was built in rough stone, this is why it was called “La Pedrera” meaning “quarry”. In addition to stone, Gaudì used reinforced concrete, fragmented tiles and wrought iron for the balconies and the entrance gate.
EMBT: Academia L’Oréal
Calle Córcega 302, 08008 Barcelona
The project embodies the romance between architecture and marketing and the fact that, nowadays, every international brand needs to have a place to offer the public a complete service and, at the same time, to have their own offices. Benedetta was able to mix the two aspects in an environment that immediately seduces the visitor: the completely white space, the ceramic floor in three different shades that recalls catalan modernism, the lighting based on an explosion of LED lights that change color, and the sinuous and curved attitude of all the spaces that evoke the waves of hair.
Antoni Gaudì: La Sagrada Familia
Carrer de Mallorca 401, 08013 Barcelona – +34 935 13 20 60
It is the best gift that Gaudì has left to his beloved Barcelona. In fact, it’s the most visited monument in Spain. So much so that the artist, to work on this, gave up all other activities and moved to the construction site of the church. Despite the initial project was a small church with a garden, the work, which began in 1882 and was picked up by Gaudì only in the following year, eventually became the beautiful and gigantic masterpiece, still in progress, that we see today. It is the supreme act of the artist, the ultimate expression of his art through the symbiosis of form and christian iconography.
Nothing is left to chance and we find references everywhere, emphasized by the architecture inspired by gothic and byzantine cathedrals: the 18 towers, one for Jesus and four for the Evangelists, one for the Virgin Mary and twelve for the Apostles; three façades representing the Nativity, the Passion and Death, and the glory of Christ; the columns in the inside representing a wood able to inspire the prayer; the beautiful stained glass windows which send the intensity of the light depending on the time of the day. We advise to visit one of the towers and to book the tickets online in order to avoid the endless queues.
EMBT: Edifici Gas Natural
Carrer del Dr. Aiguader, 08003 Barcelona
This beautiful building, opened in 2008, with its 86 mt. made his way into the Barcelona skyline. If on one hand it presents the verticality typical of the “office-towers”, on the other hand, it is characterized by the fragmentation in three different blocks of different volume similar to the surrounding residential buildings. The use of crystal, which covers the whole as a skin, provides the optical illusion that makes the building different from each side, just as the gas flame.
Enric Miralles: Pergole Icària
Avinguda d’Icària, 08005 Barcelona
Built for the Olympics 1992, the “Pergole Icària” are a series of metal shelters with wooden elements that replace the trees along this stretch of road, where they could no longer be planted due to a water pipe in the basement. The symbiosis between vegetation, wood and metal canopies points to the connection between nature and architecture. It also gives way to that feeling of innovation and progress inspired by the Olympic Games.
OUTSIDE THE CENTRE OF BARCELONA
Antoni Gaudì: Parc Güell
Carrer d’Olot, 08024 Barcelona – +34 902 20 03 02
Work began in 1910 with an ambitious plan to build a garden city on different levels connected by winding roads, and the whole complex would have to accomodate 60 houses. For lack of funds, only two houses were built and work was interrupted just four years later. The garden is now open to the public and you can visit the two pavilions, the entrance stairway and the great doric temple decorated with 86 fluted columns.
Antoni Gaudì: Casa Vicens
Carrer de les Carolines 18-24, 08012 Barcelona – privata
It was the first important work of Gaudì, built between 1883 and 1885 as a private residence. This is the first experiment of its modernist style and especially the first time the genius experiences that matching between floral tiles, bricks and rough stone that will often be his strong suit.
EMBT: Parc de Diagonal Mar
The park extends between Avinguda Diagonal and Career del Taulat, up a few steps from the sea. Today it has become the icon of the “New Barcelona”, eager to become a symbol of originality and sustainability in architecture. It is characterized by a structure similar to the branches of a tree, the various paths, and a sort of link between La Rambla Diagonal to the beach, extended on 14 hectares of parkland. Inside, there is a large pond with fountains and small clearings where there are large ceramic pots. This makes the park look like a familiar place, almost a home garden, where to cycle, walk and enjoy nature.
Antoni Gaudì: Colònia Güell
The colony is a village of 775 inhabitants which Güell had built to house all the workers of his textile factory. This project involved the construction of a real town with a school, theater, hospital and shops, in addition to the workers’ homes. The works were interrupted by the death of Güell, although Gaudì along with his collaborators built several buildings including the beautiful “Cà l’Espinal” and the wonderful crypt, a UNESCO heritage site, a triumph of stone vaults that look very much like a “Sagrada Familia” in miniature, a must see.
Enric Miralles: Cementiri Nou d’Igualada
Carrer del Països Baixos 23, 08700 Igualada
The cemetery of Igualada was completed in 1994 as a place of reflection and memory, and is considered one of the most poetic places of catalan architecture of the XX century. The basic idea is to conceptualize the poetic ideal of the cemetery, so as to arouse in the visitor the beginning of a process of acceptance of the life cycle as a link between past, present and future. This cemetery is nestled in the catalan hills and wants to be seen as a whole with the nature around; it promotes proximity between the livings and the deads. The complex is delineated by a road leading down from the entrance to the area of the graves; a tortuous path designed as a metaphor of the river of life.
Photos by Salva Lopez