During my semester abroad in Spain, I was fortunate enough to visit Barcelona and conduct a photographic study of the organic forms incorporated in the architecture of Antoni Gaudí. His work is admired and visited by people from across the globe, and defines Barcelona’s cityscape. While there, I went to four of his most famous sites: Parque Güell, Sagrada Família, Casa Batlló, and Casa Milà. While these places are unique from one another, their creation was inspired by the natural world, which is what I focused on in my study.
The first place I visited was Casa Batlló. The outside facade is covered with patches of colored metal that appear similar to lichen. Beneath each window is a small balcony protected by railings that resemble skeletal jaws. Atop the house is a scaled roof, with adorned towers meant to appear like a giant dragon guarding its castle. On the inside, there was stained glasswork that looked like rushing water and beams that made the interior feel like I was surrounded by a rib cage or white tree trunks.
Next I walked to La Sagrada Familia, and was overwhelmed by its enormous presence when it came into view. This is perhaps Gaudí’s most famous site, and although I had previously seen photos during my research, nothing prepared me for how beautiful it was in real life. For its size, I was amazed by its small details like the plants and animals carved into the cathedral’s exterior. My favorite part was the stained glass on the inside; on one half of the room the windows are tinted blue, green, and purple, while on the other side they are warmer tones of red, orange, and yellow. This is intended to represent sunrise and sunset, and the main hall is filled with a rainbow of color that lights up the room’s tall columns and geometric ceiling when the sun shines through.
On my second day I went to Parque Güell, a park blooming with flowers and art. At the center there is a running fountain and sculpture of a lizard emerging from it. Higher on the hillside, there are ceramic benches that curve like waves and show visitors a panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea. These seats are decorated with colorful mosaics of planets, stars, butterflies, flowers, leaves, and many other representations of flora, fauna, and the cosmos. Again, the details hidden in Gaudí’s work reveal his inspiration in organic forms, as does the physical structure of elements in his architecture.
Lastly I went to Casa Milà, which is also known as La Pedrera, meaning ‘stone mine’ in the regional Catalan language. The house itself looks like a large rock that has been weathered away or chipped away at like an open quarry. Upon entering, I passed a large iron gate covering a doorway like Spanish moss or a big cobweb. On the roof sit large helmeted figures that look like twisted shells, and other towers capped like toadstool mushrooms. From this vantage point I could see how Gaudí observed the silhouettes of surrounding buildings when considering his design since the spires on Casa Milà, although bizarre, do not seem out of place. This is a good example of how Gaudí mixed elements of natural and manmade environments.
My motivation to do this project stemmed from my personal interest in art and nature. I am intrigued by Gaudí’s large-scale architecture, much of which reflects the natural world, and how it has been integrated in an urban setting. I hope to combine my passion for photography with my environmentally-focused studies in my career, possibly as a conservation or wildlife photographer. I am very grateful for having been granted this opportunity. Being able to complete this project allowed me to take a different perspective on Gaudí’s work and visit these amazing sites as an artist rather than tourist. This experience has enriched my appreciation for the ways art is incorporated in our lives, and provided me with a meaningful and unforgettable experience creating this photo project.