The Genius and His Army of Knights

Trip Start May 31, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

We had one more Gaudi masterpiece to see, and while most people would have already grown bored, we couldn't be more excited to see what other fantastic and magical realms he had in store for us. 

La Pedrera, which means stone quarry in Catalan, was the nickname given to Casa Milá, another one of the important must-see buildings designed by Gaudi. When we got to the street corner the house was in, we understood where the nickname came from. The façade of the building looked like a mass of wave-like rock and some even say it looks like a huge sand castle about to collapse. The balconies are made of wrought-iron which seemed to resemble tangled up seaweed, but each were different and not a single straight line was detected in the exterior.

Many tourist groups were agglomerating in the front door so we quickly moved to pay the entrance fee and start investigating La Pedrera's insides. We were also given audio-guides so we were free to roam about wherever we liked, in the order we liked. We turned on our audio guides as we climbed the staircase to the fourth floor, and learned that it was built in 1905 for the Milá Family as a set of residential apartments for the growing Barcelonean bourgeoisie class, which after the Industrial Revolution was ever-growing and always in demand of improving public services, therefore transforming the city. The building was also named World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.

I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that this particular exhibition, on the contrary to Casa Batlló, was completely furnished just like it would have been in a family's apartment in the early 1900's. The vestibule was decorated with a rich crystal chandelier and the marble bust of a snobby-looking Victorian woman. Like in the Batlló house, the doors were made of glass panes to allow light to pass through to the darker sides of the apartment. The door frames were very sculptural, as if there were vines interlaced in the wood.

I loved the master bedroom which had gorgeous femenine Art Nouveau wooden furniture, with leafy white roses painted on the surface. The ensuite bathroom had salmon-pink walls matching the tiles. A magnificent immaculate white bathtub, perfect for late night bubble baths was the main highlight of the bathroom. I have always wanted one of these antique lion-pawed bathtubs, my mom should know.

The study was decorated with very masculine elements such as a wooden sailboat and an amazing bookshelf full of old Catalan books and magazines. The walls were covered in framed bank bonds from the 20's which I thought was a very original touch from the museum's part.

The kitchen was to die for, with white wooden cupboards and white marble counters. Old jars filled with Spanish olives in vinegar, decanters of red wine, and glass soda flasks decorated the table tops, together with an aged rolling pin and an antique meat grinder. There was a fabulous firewood stove which I wanted to rip off the wall and take home with me. God, I was born in the wrong decade!

The children's bedroom was decorated with tiles Gaudi had designed himself, with beautiful marine motifs, curvy octopus tentacles, and spiraled seaweed. Apparently Mr. Milá didn't approve of the design and rejected it. Now the tiles are paved all over Ave. Passeig de Gracia.

We climbed to the most famous part of the building, one I had seen in endless postcards and architectural and travel books. The roof truly had Gaudi's signature on it, more so than the interior which was decorated more than it was designed. As soon as we stepped unto the gray skyscape, I felt like I was in some imaginary dreamland out of this world. The army of iron-clad Medieval knights that were present in Casa Batlló were doubled here, in number and in size.  Some helmets were decorated with fragments of pearl-like tiles and some others were filled with bits of glass from forest-green colored bottles. The 8 staircases that lead to the roof were encased in wavy dome-like structures made of white tiles. Some other structures twisted, bended, and curved like twigs or trunks in a forest. We sat in a corner watching the sky, drinking the yummiest raspberry, cherry and orange juice.

The sun was bidding farewell and it was getting a bit chilly, and having concluded our tour, we exited this wonder of a building, Gaudi's last secular building before retiring to his almost obsessive work in La Sagrada Familia. Perfectionist and meticulous to his last day, hailed as a genius, instead of relying on geometric shapes like other architects, he studied the way trees and animals grow and shift, taking long hikes allowing him to experience his greatest teacher: Mother Nature.

Up to now it had been impossible not to fall in love with Gaudi and his work. It's one thing studying him in books from afar and another completely different being able to stand in his rooms, touch the smooth wooden details, the leafy motifs of the plaster, the multi-colored glass, the broken tiles meshed together. Gaudi has become immortal in this city and eternal in my mind: the sensations that I had felt in Gaudi's creations were completely new to me and had filled my imagination with dreamscapes and fantasies. Even his microscopic attention to detail and perfection, in some strange level, aroused in me that same longing for self-improvement. Maybe acute thought-out plans and ravishing spaces make one want to become a better person. And the genius of Gaudi's work, I think, relies in precisely that.
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