Next time you're in Barcelona, don't miss Parc Guell and other landmarks designed by Antoni Gaudi. Born in 1852 and trained as an architect, Gaudi constructed fantastical buildings for his clients, including the famous Sagrada Familia, which he worked on for 43 years. Sagrada Familia is a towering cathedral featuring multiple geometric forms, with columns that branch out like trees and intricate mosaics on the inside surfaces of the arches, all in white tile.
Gaudi was influenced by the colorful and organic forms of nature. Much of his architecture features arches, columns and other curved shapes -– most of which are covered in mosaic. This gives them a very modern look, and indeed, some scholars have included Gaudi in the Spanish Modernist movement of the early 1900s. However, equally prominent in Gaudi's work are echoes of Gothic style, especially in his towering columns, flying buttresses and arches.
Parc Guell is an ultimate example of repurposing and recycling, because it was made from broken, cast-off pieces of ceramic tile from a nearby factory. The park center is bordered by an undulating railing and many benches, all colorfully mosaicked in the bright colors that are characteristic of Spanish tile. Mosaic applied to curved surfaces can be very difficult, but Gaudi had an expert on hand; his assistant, Josep Jujol, executed most of his mosaic creations.
One of the main attractions at Parc Guell is the stunning Dragon Fountain, a favorite of children, which straddles the two sides of a trough as if it's just rising up from drinking. It is a large, colorful sculpture covered in bright blue and yellow tiles. Another part of the park features a forest of columns that are clustered like tree trunks, which support a pathway and overlook at the top. Unlike the railing and benches, these columns are faced in stones of earth tones rather than bright colors, adding to the naturalistic representation of a forest of trees. Parc Guell was originally conceived of as an urban revitalization project. This did not work out, but the buildings and pathways remain a big draw for tourists and artists. It is a "must see" destination for mosaic artists who wish to admire the works of a master.
By all accounts Antoni Gaudi was a bit of an eccentric. He rarely drew detailed sketches of his projects like other architects; instead, he made scale models and worked out the three-dimensional details from these. Many of his works have been named world heritage sites by UNESCO. A very religious man, Gaudi never married, and instead devoted his entire life to his work.