It’s not all the same

When you travel to a foreign city, you can usually be fairly sure that the key buildings will remain the same. They may have had a little restoration and there may be a new museum or arts centre, but fundamentally there is little change. An old guide book may provide little guidance to restaurants or bars, but it should be pretty sound on architectural heritage. But that is not the case in Barcelona.

When you travel to a foreign city, you can usually be fairly sure that the key buildings will remain the same. They may have had a little restoration and there may be a new museum or arts centre, but fundamentally there is little change. An old guide book may provide little guidance to restaurants or bars, but it should be pretty sound on architectural heritage. But that is not the case in Barcelona.

Today I went to the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s life work which was still very much unfinished when he was killed by a tram. I can’t remember when I  last visited but when I did there were some completed parts but no roof. Now, although there is still a lot to do, the building has a roof and windows and, indeed, has been consecrated. It is a working church while still a work in progress.

And it is breathtaking – whether breathtaking good or breathtakingly bad is harder to decide. But the technical achievements are immense, and the exhibition in the crypt showing much of Gaudi’s working is fascinating. 

The other intriguing aspect was learning the order in which Gaudi built. He knew not much would be finished in his lifetime, so he was determined to complete a single facade before he died, rather than starting at the base and working up equally. (In fact he only finished one out of four towers, but the others followed swiftly.)

The result was that he left a building that, although only about 15 per cent complete, was already a landmark. He was evidently an early and highly successful proponent of the idea of architecture as branding.

Ruth Slavid

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