Barcelona is a well-known destination among travelers who wish to have a good mix of fun and culture in a modern setting.
Knitted in this unmistakable urban fabric you will some unusual and well-known buildings of a single architect named Antoni Gaudí. His unique approach to the Art Nouveau movement generated some of the most creative buildings you will see in this Spanish region known as Cataluña.
Even if you don’t know anything about architecture or Gaudí, when you walk the streets of Barcelona you will intuitively be able to identify a Gaudí building –they are unmistakable. So, if you’re interested in experiencing an unusual Barcelona, you should take a look at 10 of the most important buildings designed by Gaudí:
1. Casa Vicens
This is Gaudí’s first important building. Built between 1883 and 1888, Casa Vicens is an imaginative residential project made for a rich family that owned a ceramic factory. This is clearly reflected in the “trencadis” façade that contains a big variety of ceramic decorations. You can also see some Islamic architecture influences in its façade and in some of its rooms.
2. La Pedrera
This is one of Gaudí’s main residential buildings and one of the most imaginative houses in the history of architecture. This building is more a sculpture than a building. The façade is a varied and harmonious mass of undulating stone that, along with its forged iron balconies, explores the irregularities of the natural world. UNESCO recognized this building as World Heritage in 1984.
3. Parc Güell
Parc Güell was built between 1900 and 1914 and today is part of the UNESCO World Heritage. This is a garden complex that houses a series of dynamically designed buildings, including Gaudí’s house. Most buildings have the “trencadis” (surfaces covered with irregular ceramic pieces) that is characteristic of Gaudí and Art Nouveau. The colonnade hall and the terrace with serpentine shapes are the most popular places of this park. This park is the perfect place to walk quietly while enjoying nature and looking at Gaudí’s artwork.
4. Palau Güell
This is the palace residence of the Güell family. The exterior shows a sober façade that doesn’t resemble other projects made by Gaudí. On the other hand, the interior and the roof make up for the lack of “Gaudiesque” elements in the façade. The central living room has an unusual parabolic dome and the lounge ceiling is perforated by circles that, under the daylight, give the ceiling a planetarium appearance. The roof counts with chimneys and conical vents resembling fir trees.
5. Colonia Güell
Gaudí designed this irregular oval church and crypt in 1898 and finished its construction in 1914. The interior of the crypt has five aisles: a central one and two more at each side. The original Gaudí columns with various forms are present inside and outside. The windows jut out over the walls, and in the upper part of the door a ceramic composition show the four cardinal virtues. The crypt is built in basaltic stone bricks with mosaics that give an archaic appearance.
The construction techniques used here laid the foundation of the techniques used in La Sagrada Familia.
6. El Drac de Gaudí at Finca Güell
Finca Güell is a big property of one of Gaudí’s biggest client, Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi, the count of Güell. But what’s interesting is not so much the complex, is its entrance iron gate. The complex is composed by two buildings linked by a common monumental cast iron gate adorned with Art Nouveau vegetal fantasies and a medallion with the “G” of Güell. The most astonishing feature is its unusual big iron dragon manufactured by the locksmith’s Vallet i Piquer.
7. Casa Batlló
Casa Batlló is the result of a total restoration in 1904 of an old conventional house built in 1877. Gaudí used for it the typical constructive elements of the Modernisme (Catalan Art Nouveau) that include ceramics, stone and forged iron. Even though it was highly criticized by the city during construction for its radical design that broke all the bylaws of the city, in 1906 it was awarded by the Barcelona City Council as one of the three best buildings of the year.
8. Casa Calvet
Casa Calvet was built between 1898 and 1900 for the Calvets, a family of textile industrialists. This is Gaudi’s most conventional work.
The stone facade reflects baroque influences, along with its bay windows, sculptural decoration, and interior decorations. The shape of the balconies can be seen as a forerunner to shapes used at Casa Batlló, where Gaudí turned much more to the inspiration of nature. The roof is topped with two pediments, each supporting a wrought iron cross. They are surrounded by various pieces of stone ornamentation and crowned with statues of San Genis and Saint Peter – Calvets saints.
9. La Sagrada Familia
This is the most famous of Gaudí’s works. This church has been in construction since 1892 and it’s not expected to be finished until 2030. The church presents a great depiction of the relationship between man, nature, and religion through its architecture and façade sculptures. Climbing one of its towers will give you a unique view of Barcelona. Also, take the audio tour, is very informative and it’s well worth it.
10. Cascada Fountain at Park de la Ciutadella
The Cascada was designed by Josep Fontseré in 1881, specifically for the universal exhibition in 1888, with young Gaudí as assistant. Inspiration for the Cascada was the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy. It is located in Barcelona’s most famous park – Park de la Ciutadella.
As you can see, Gaudí’s architecture is full of unusual and unexpected characteristics that are not seen in other buildings, let alone other cities in the world. It’s no surprise why this architect’s works make great sightseeing destinations that without any doubt will create an impression on you.
If you’d like to learn more about Gaudí or Barcelona’s Architecture, I recommend checking out these books:
- Gaudí: The Complete Buildings (Architecture & Design)
- National Geographic Walking Barcelona: The Best of the City
- Gaudi: A Biography
- Antonio Gaudi: Master Architect