IACS, day two, or the rare weekend post, part one

Happy Sunday. We’re all out of sorts here, with extra posts because of our many adventures. So let’s dive in. Yesterday, Saturday, we spent at the conference, and chatting with friends old and new. It was a fine day with delightful people.

Today, we took in two of Barcelona’s sites.

First was Park Güell, on the northern face of the Collserola mountain range. The design was Antoni Gaudí’s, the architect is the face of local modernism, but more on him in the next post. The park was opened in 1926 and declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. More than 12 million tourists visit the park each year, but the initial plan was to build a complex of high-quality houses.

Also, it affords these outstanding views of the city and countryside.

The Calvary — or the hill of the three crosses, or El turó de les Tres Creus in Catalan — is a small manmade mountain. There are three crosses there. It was intended to be a chapel, but Gaudi didn’t finish it. Highest part of the park.

This was to be at the front of the failed housing project, and inspired by the story of Hänsel and Gretel. There are two buildings here, model houses, really. This one was to be an administrative building, but is now a bookstore and gift shop. That cross is not original. It was destroyed in the Spanish Civil War in 1936, and rebuilt sometime thereafter.

This is the Escalera Monumental, or dragon staircase. Very popular, and if you’ve ever seen photos from Güell, this is probably what you saw first. The highlights are the mosaics, which you can’t appreciate properly for all of these crowds.

A lot of Gaudi’s work doesn’t appeal to me. The explanations for what he was after often feel like apologia. “It’s an appeal to nature!” If you say so. Modernism has plenty of peculiar strains though, and it isn’t always better. I love the mosaic work, there’s not one in Spain I wouldn’t stop to admire, but I can dismiss much of the rest of Gaudi’s park.

We visited there with some friends from Louisville and Canada — you don’t know them. After, we cooled down with a gelato, took a group photo and said our goodbyes. The conference was ended, and we’re all going to separate places in the hours and days to come.

The first place The Yankee and I were going was to the Sagrada Familia. It was a mile or so away, and we strolled through beautiful high end neighborhoods. Apartment living looks fine, if, I’m sure, you can afford it.

This is Casa de les Punxes, or Casa Terradas. Bartomeu Terradas i Mont, a textile magnate, and his son, Bartomeu Terradas Brutau — a soccer player, a founding member of FC Barcelona and, briefly, the team president — had this house built for the women in their family in 1905. It is actually three buildings, but design and perspective make it all merge fairly seamlessly. (And if I’d been on my toes when we walked by, I’d have a better photo to show that.) The medieval modernism style makes it a signature Barcelona building, and in 1975, it was declared a national historic monument.

Soon after, we arrived at Sagrada Familia, the famous church — and famously unfinished church — designed by Antoni Gaudí.

We’ve seen beautiful churches and cathedrals in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, across the United States. It’s just a thing we do on trips, now, and they never disappoint. But, as I said above, Gaudí’s quirky style isn’t to my taste. He was killed by a tram in 1926. He was 73 and about a quarter of the project was completed, so he was never going to see this place finished. Here we are, almost 100 years later, work still in progress.

The exterior is adorned with scenes depicting Jesus’ life.

Rich with symbolism, or at least stabs at explanation, it is quite … involved and ornate … in its own mottled sort of way.

I don’t care for the style, is all.

Except for these. While the church work has been underway since late in the 19th century, these doors were installed in 2015. Apparently there were no doors before that.

These are bronze, and that’s symbolic too, since the more it gets touched, the more brilliant and beautiful it becomes like the love between two people. These doors were crafted by a man named Etsuro Sotoo. The “Japanese Gaudí” came to Spain in 1978 and his devoted much of his life’s work to project. I’ve shortchanged his genius by capturing it with two hasty photos.

These doors, the Doors of the Charity, are absolutely stunning.

After Gaudí died, work continued, but then came a two-decade pause from the Spanish Civil War and World War II, and then some time repairing war damage. And the work always continues. A few generations of artisans and laborers since … they’re eyeing a tangible finish line. In the next decade or so, they’re anticipating finally having Sagrada Familia completed.

In the next post you’ll see the interior, and why we will most definitely be back.

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