We were lucky with the weather it was sunny and unusually warm for the Carnival weekend in Barcelona. People and particularly children were out for the stroll down the Ramblas dressed in wigs extra noses and feathers and or fairy tale characters adding more colour and a sense of the hilarious spirit to the already decorative town of Barcelona. There was no procession as such, carnival just included all those dressed the part. Sunshine swept along the wide boulevards thickly lined with old lime trees that promise leaves in the very near future! Already the benches along the pavements invite social exchange and are occupied with people chatting, or enjoying a little rest.
Gaudi’s legacies extend and can be enjoyed throughout the town, so does Miro’s and Tapies’s. Save for contemporary art you can find everything.
Even though the art map lists 25 contemporary galleries in town, and many of them in Conseil de Cento, so after a long stroll down which, I am disappointed …… there was nothing new to discover at all… ‘Nada’. The couple of galleries I rembered from a previous visits and that were doing anything close to exciting must have closed down because I could not find them again.
Off the Ramblas is that delightful vegetable meat and fish market. It is Calcot Season, calcot being a mixture of spring onion and leek sold in big bunches on the stalls and is eaten roasted at this time of the year. The market is a magnificent display of fresh vegetables and fruit produce, large fish counters alive with crabs and lobsters fuming bubbles in its last throws. I feel sorry for them but they are appreciated on a plate!
So Gaudi and the Park Güell it was, and we went to join a crowd of visitors at the entrance, and we stepped over all the touristy goods laid out by the sellers on blankets on the floor. Gaudi would have approved of the music and drums sounding from the busy Ronda with its round mosaic seats. We stepped higher into the gardens and found a quiete spot away from the main arena under some trees furnished with tables and benches drenched in glorious sunshine. From this height a fantastic view unfolded of the ancient and new city of Barcelona and lay at our feet suspended between the sea and the blue blue sky. It was a good place to be munching on a very good jamon sandwich , while we agreeing on that: “This was a perfect peaceful moment in a time of so much upheaval around the world.A new extension to the Sagrada Famillia has recently been opened by the Pope and is open to the public. Personally I prefer Gaudi’s drawings of the Sagrada, or the view from afar, to standing at the foot of this monstrously intricate building the cacophony or dictionary of styles is distracting, I think Gaudi would be aghast at the additions. This project was a life long occupation for him and it was only 25% finished at his death.
Now a permanent building site, this unfinished work by Gaudi constantly reminds one of his genius and the single mindedness and trust he invested in his goal. At the time his experiments in social architecture and the successful materialisaton of the new ideas opened a pathway to creativeness and permanent change in future architecture. Although to this day not many architects have been able followed in Gaudi’s steps and continue his work resounding with regard for the environment and the human need for social interaction. ‘The continuation of the Sagrada Familia by the successors of Gaudi assumes at the very least a lack of understanding of the conceptual changes which our times have brought about in architecture and which for better or for worse, connect works intimately with the genius of their authors.’ (Gaudi, Don Juan Bassegoda Nonell, Academy Editions 1987)
What would The Sagrada be like if he was still alive? What if today’s architects and planners were more open to experimentation? Would our towns would have gentler, humanistic lines to follow, and be more pleasant places? Gaudi’s proposal for the Sagrada included that the end persued is: ‘to recreate the language of symbolic forms, so as to revitalize the communication that could be offered by religious objects. And so it was to be in the new church of the Sagrada Familia.
Plasticity and rounded edges characterise all of his works, his inspiring designs and creations are so much closer to the natural forms found in the environment around us. Elements of the very beginning of art noveau are clearly recognisable, but there is so much more, there is a middle eastern influence in the lattice work and baroque curls on others, he combined it all and made it his very own new style based on humanitarian principles. This is far our city made from the sterile straight lined office blocks. Hundertwasser who is one of the architects that followed in Gaudi’s footsteps wrote this poem on the straight line: See below:
The Paradise Destroyed by the Straight Line
by Friedensreich Hundertwasser
An ecologist without a conscience is doomed to failure, and the same is true of an artist who does not bow to the laws of nature.
The world has not improved. The dangers felt have turned into reality.
Nevertheless, today, although nothing has been done, my longstanding warnings are at last being taken seriously.
Yet there are still no lawns on the roofs, no tree-tenants, no plant-driven water purification plants, no humus toilets, no rights to windows, no duties to the trees. The essential reafforestation of the town has not come about.
What we lack is a peace treaty with nature.
We must restore to nature the territories we have unlawfully taken from it. Everything horizontal under the sky belongs to nature. Everything touched by the rays of the sun, everywhere where the rain falls is nature’s sacred and inviolable property. We men are merely nature’s guests.
In 1952 I spoke of the civilisation of make-believe, the one we must shake off, myself, the first of all! I spoke of columns of gray men on the march toward sterility and self-destruction.
The same year I used the term ”transautomation” to show the way beyond the rationalism of technocrats toward a new creation in harmony with the laws of nature.
In 1953 I realised that the straight line leads to the downfall of mankind.
But the straight line has become an absolute tyranny.
The straight line is something cowardly drawn with a rule, without thought or feeling; it is a line which does not exist in nature.
And that the line is the rotten foundation of our doomed civilisation.
Even if there are certain places where it is recognised that this line is rapidly leading to perdition, its course continues to be plotted.
The straight line is the only sterile line, the only line which does not suit man as the image of God.
The straight line is the forbidden fruit.
The straight line is the curse of our civilisation.
Any design undertaken with the straight line will be stillborn. Today we are witnessing the triumph of rationalist knowhow and yet, at the same time, we find ourselves confronted with emptiness. An æsthetic void, desert of uniformity, criminal sterility, loss of creative power.
Even creativity is prefabricated.
We have become impotent. We are no longer able to create. That is our real illiteracy.