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Architectural Encounters in Barcelona

Architectural Encounters in Barcelona

Blog written by Part I Architectural Assistant Nick Parker following a visit to Barcelona.

Situated on the east coast of Spain in the region of Catalonia, the city of Barcelona is bordered by the Besós River to the North, the LLobregat River to the south, the rocky outcrop of Montjuic and the semi-circular mountain range of Colleserola. Famous for its art, architecture (notably influenced by the creativity of Antoni Gaudì) and its food, the city is a popular tourist destination.

Antoni Gaudì
Antoni Gaudì has had a huge influence on the city with the design of many structures such as Casa Batlló in the city centre and the structures and mosaics within Parc Güell, inspired by his appreciation of Art Nouveau. However, his masterpiece is the Sagrada Familia, a towering church full of symbolism and a fusion between the verticality and cruciform plan of gothic churches and the organic forms of Art Nouveau.
La Sagrada Familia

When visiting this impressive monument, you are struck by the incredible attention to detail of the design, full of references to the Roman Catholic faith. There are 3 facades, each with their own style, which relate to the birth, death and resurrection of Christ. Upon entering the church, you are taken aback by the volume of the space and the amount of light that fills it. The columns rise out of the ground like tree trunks soaring above and spreading out across the ceiling like the canopy of a forest with light filtering down from above. The columns differ in colour and are made of different stone based upon the hierarchy of the structure. Each type of stone was carefully selected based upon its structural strength; the thicker columns were crafted from a stronger material, carefully supporting the weight of the roof. The parabolic shape of the structure was ahead of its time, so much so that only recently is it possible for us to model the design in order to speed up the construction. Gaudì created the forms by a series of suspended weights which shows the structure upside down. This level of creativity is one of a number of reasons why the building is yet to be finished, however, it is anticipated that the Sagrada Familia will be completed by 2026, marking 100 years since his death.

My favourite detail of this building is the amount of colour that shone through the stained glass windows, meticulously designed to capture the movement of the sun, reflecting the progression of colours upon the stonework, the light dancing upon its surface.

Mies van der Rohe Pavilion

Also located in Barcelona is one of the most influential projects of the modern era, the Pavilion, designed by Mies van der Rohe in 1928 for the Barcelona International Exposition. Originally, the Pavilion was only intended to be temporary and was taken down in 1930, however, due to the popularity of the design and the significance it had on modern architecture, it was reproduced in 1986. The design of the Pavilion was an experiment in the expression of the different elements of a building – floor, wall and roof – through the composition of horizontal and vertical planes which were used to create space. There is a particular focus on proportions and the alignment of the components with one another in a grid-like fashion creating crisp connections. Despite the age of the design, it doesn’t look out of place in a modern environment.

‘Mes que un Club’

As an avid football fan I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to visit the Camp Nou and immerse myself in the history of one of the most successful clubs in the world. A tour here provides you with an opportunity to see the impressive trophy cabinets, changing rooms and commentator boxes as well as being able to stand at pitch level.