Sagrada Familia and Montjüic

This great church begun by Antonio Gaudí is perpetually under construction with a currently planned end date of 2026-2030. Signs posted by the entrance ticket booth claim that all who enter are partners in the construction. Lucky for us, we bought our tickets online and were the first to enter the church when it opened, avoiding what was a line that snaked around the block when we left. Gaudí is known for a rather fanciful design style resembling dripping cake frosting and fluid organic shapes. This church did not disappoint in providing lots to look at.

We waited patiently for the 9am gate opening to let pre-purchased ticket holders in. The line for those waiting to buy tickets was already snaking around the block. I still wondered how crowded it would be when we entered. The gates opened and we were maybe 5th and 6th in line. While most people stood outside the church for photos, we dashed inside. It turned out to be a great decision.

We walked through the west entrance of the church to find it mostly empty. The sun was just beginning to rise, bringing soft rays through the ornate stained glass windows on the eastern wall of the church. I was struck by the patterns of light created on the floors, pillars and walls close to the windows. Gaudí's design style left few surfaces as flat planes and the curved walls and ornamentation near the windows created great canvases for the incoming colored light. I started taking as many photos as I could get!

The small number of people currently inside the church meant lots of open floor space, which would soon be covered with other admirers. I was fortunate to get more photos of the stained glass colors reflected off the floors and photos from angles that would be difficult once more people arrived. The church has so much detail everywhere you look, it can become overwhelming. I found it best to take large sections in as a whole and then focus on only a few detailed areas, getting lost in every one.

I suspect many people's first reaction to viewing the Sagrada Familia is one of puzzlement. What was this architect thinking? This church is so completely different from any I've seen. What possessed him to do that? I'm sure the questions are limitless. We found some answers in the small, but very informative gallery adjacent to the church and dedicated to Gaudí and his inspirations.

Gaudí was a fan of natural forms, and looking at Sagrada Familia shows that. However, one might also look at Sagrada Familia and think that some shapes and forms appear very random and organic without logical design. However, the gallery showed exactly where Gaudí found inspiration for the designs through meticulous study of nature's architecture. He explored the curves and planes making up the formation of a tree trunk or leaf. Symmetry, balance and all things mathematical describe many of the architectural forms used in the creation of Sagrada Familia.

One example I found very interesting was Gaudí's exploration of the shapes created when you take a vertical slice off of a solid cone. The parabola that remains became a strong design motif for Gaudí's creations. He also explored the intersections of planes and solids, using the conjunctions as the basis for many of his ideas. I was amazed by his mathematical approach to creating architectural forms which mimicked the sturdiness of nature and such organic appearance as to look haphazard. This was an excellent learning to accompany the enjoyment of the pure beauty.

Our turistic bus had a convenient stop outside the Sagrada Familia, allowing us to ride for part of the way on a new route before jumping back onto the red route for stops at places we hadn't explored on our previous day's ride. This particular route goes through an area called Montjüic, which is basically a large hill overlooking Barcelona.

Our first stop was Park Güell, a preplanned community by Gaudí which never really took off and became a park instead. Park Güell is a garden complex with architectural elements situated on the hill of El Carmel in the Gràcia district of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. It was designed by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí and built in the years 1900 to 1914. Wikipedia

The place was overrun with tourists and locals, so we kept our visit on the short side, taking in a walk around the grounds to enjoy the views of the city below and some people watching. One of the more famous characteristics of the park is the curving mosaic bench in the main courtyard, offering plenty of seating to look out over the landscape. It was difficult for me to find a clear spot to photograph the bench without people on it. I wanted to show the design, which uses a technique of broken ceramic pieces assembled into colorful mosaics. I succeeded in getting a few shots.

Our next stop was Club Nou (FCB Stadium, Football Club Barcelona). We couldn't go into the stadium, but we did have a chance to grab a beer across from the entrance. Although there wasn't a game that day, the place was filled with fans buying merchandise, tickets and food and drink.

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We stopped at the National Museum of Art next. The museum was closed when we stopped the day before, so this was our chance to take in some of the national art treasures in an incredible building. The gothic structure housed a large collection of artworks from various periods and was organized in one of the best ways I've ever seen. After walking up the main staircase behind the reception desk, you are presented with very distinct banners on either side of the great hall directing you to one of the many collections. I did find myself wandering about once inside a collection, but I never found myself moving from a room of Baroque paintings in one room into a room of modern sculpture in the next.

This building had a great feature not related to art at all. A huge room, open under the building's main dome provided comfy couches around the perimeter, great natural light and views, and free wifi access. It was time to take a break and touch base with home. The room was filled with students and backpackers. It was a perfect spot to spend a quiet afternoon, but we took enough time for a few quick emails and were off.

Our final stop this day was the Miró museum. This was a great collection of his works, all under one roof. I'm not a huge fan myself, but couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit a museum dedicated to a recognized master. As the time difference started hitting us, we walked through the museum and headed back to our hotel.