There are many famous architects, living and dead, who have blessed the world with their creative genius. However, there is one particular architect who has stood out to me since I first encountered his work in Barcelona. Everything he has created is insanely unique, and this renowned architect is none other than Antoni Gaudí.
Gaudí was born in 1852 in Spain. He studied architecture in Barcelona and later went on to design lampposts, parks, wine cellars, churches, multiple World’s Fair projects, and so much more. Early in his career, Gaudí was known to work on multiple projects simultaneously. Later in life, though, he devoted his time solely to the design and creation of Sagrada Familia, a magnificent church that was consecrated as a minor basilica in 2010 (though it remains unfinished at the moment!)
It’s hard to define Gaudí’s “style” since he pulled from many influences and touched on a whole variety of styles. And once you’ve seen his work, you’ll understand why it’s difficult to put Gaudí into one neat little box! He was a visionary who didn’t follow the established rules and protocols for architecture and design, which is part of what makes his work so freaking cool.
And though he is quite popular now, Gaudí and his work were not always so loved since he was such an outside-of-the-box thinker. He had many critics who didn’t quite understand what he was trying to achieve and who didn’t like the fact that his work wasn’t very familiar or traditional.
Gaudí died in 1926 after being hit by a street tram in Barcelona, and it really wasn’t until the 1950s that he began to gain popularity and universal recognition for his accomplishments and ingenuity.
Today, several of Gaudí’s works enjoy UNESCO World Heritage Site status, which is a testament to the contributions he has made to the field of architecture and design. Personally, I think the man was a genius, and I credit him for piquing my own interest in and appreciation of architecture.
Visiting Gaudí’s Works in Barcelona
In 2009, I had a conference in Madrid, and I decided to head over a few days early so I could spend some time in Barcelona. I hadn’t ever heard of Gaudí prior to my trip, but I had a guidebook with beautiful pictures of his work, which really leapt out to me. Since it seemed like he was very creative and imaginative in his designs, I was immediately intrigued and made a point of visiting several Gaudí locations while in Barcelona.
I don’t know how to describe Gaudí’s work in technical terms, but for me, it actually made me feel something. Like I was a kid again and had walked into a storybook, perhaps? Some of his work made me feel like I was walking on a cloud or floating on water with the way that it curved and swirled and waved, and some looked like it was even made out of candy or melting ice cream!
In a word, I found Gaudí’s work to be magical.
Read on for more about my top four favorite Gaudí sites in Barcelona, and learn how you can visit these incredible places yourself!
1. Park Güell
Built between 1900 and 1904, Park Güell opened in 1926 and was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1984. There are tons of beautiful mosaics, as well as interesting columns and passageways throughout the park.
I loved this place so much, and it was probably my favorite of the Gaudí sites I visited. I enjoyed being outside in the sunshine, and the entire place was breathtaking. Of course, it didn’t hurt that it was also a stunning day when I visited. Everything was very bright and colorful, and the sun hitting the mosaics made it all sort of glow and sparkle.
Plan Your Own Visit
2. Casa Batlló
The Casa Batlló was an existing house that Gaudí redesigned and remodeled in 1904. The interior has some 90-degree angles, but many of the walls and ceilings are actually curved or rounded or appear as though they’re being twisted inward. The facade is covered with little rounded balconies and the tiles on the arched roof look like the scales of a dragon!
I love that Gaudí cared about incorporating design into the roofs of his buildings and not just the facades and interiors. And it’s even cooler that you can go up onto the roof at Casa Batlló to see everything up close and personal!
As you walk around up there, you can look through a couple different skylights and admire some of the beautiful mosaics that can’t really be fully appreciated from street level. Really, the whole place made me feel like I was inside a fairy tale castle.
Plan Your Own Visit
3. Casa Milà (also known as La Pedrera)
Casa Milà was built between 1906 and 1910 for Roser Segimón and Pere Milà, who commissioned Gaudí to build them a home where they could live on the main floor while renting out apartments on the upper floors.
To me, the main draw of this place is again the roof. For one, you get fantastic views of Barcelona. But also, Gaudí took ordinary things like chimneys, stairways, and ventilation towers and made them look extraordinary.
In fact, he made them look like towers and statues with abstract faces that are so large you can actually see them from the street. And like most buildings in Barcelona, it is built around a courtyard, but this is probably the only one in Barcelona that is shaped like an oval instead of a square!
Plan Your Own Visit
4. Sagrada Familia
And finally, we reach the Sagrada Familia, which some consider to be Gaudí’s masterpiece. Gaudí took over the design and construction of Sagrada Familia in 1883 and worked on the project until his death in 1926.
He devoted the final 12 years of his life almost solely to Sagrada Familia, and even then, only less than a quarter of the construction was completed by the time he died. Current architects of the project estimate that it will not be fully complete until at least 2026, which is the 100-year anniversary of Gaudí’s death.
As with the rest of Gaudí’s work, Sagrada Familia is almost indescribable. It certainly doesn’t look like most other churches! The design started in a Gothic revival style and there are aspects of the church that look like what you’d expect to see in a cathedral. But when Gaudí took over the project, he revamped the whole design, and you can see how his imagination and creativity took over and brought the whole place to life.
The spires, again, reminded me of melting ice cream, and some of the various statues of saints and apostles are actually somewhat abstract rather than accurate reproductions of the human form. Inside, you’ll find the obligatory stained glass windows, but the walls and arches and ceiling look futuristic and elongated. It’s so incredible, and it’s really no wonder that Sagrada Familia is Barcelona’s most visited tourist attraction!
Plan Your Own Visit
I like a pretty building as much as the next person, and living in NYC, we’re regularly treated to unique and innovative designs. But nothing can really compare to what Gaudí was able to see in his mind and make come alive in beautiful Barcelona.
So, if you do find yourself in Barcelona sometime soon, I hope you’ll find some time to visit the beautiful and creative works of Gaudí. If you enjoy a bit of whimsy or feel nostalgic for fairy tales and storybooks, let Gaudí’s work transport you to a magical dreamland for a little while (or a long while if you’ve got the time!)
Have you already seen some of Gaudí’s work? Let me know what you think of his designs!