Few architects have left such a significant mark on a city as Antoni Gaudi did on Barcelona. A leading light of the Catalan Modernism movement, his distinctive visual style drew from a plethora of influences as diverse as his own output, from Oriental art to Neo-Gothic architecture. Today, his buildings are counted among some of the most visited attractions in Spain, with many declared UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Now Casa Vicens, the first house designed by Gaudi, will open its doors to the public for the first time on 16 November, after remaining a private residence for more than 130 years. As tickets go on sale, we take a look at this and some of his other iconic works to see across the city.
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Built between 1883 and 1885 as a summer home for stock market dealer Manel Vicens I Montaner, despite undergoing significant changes throughout its life – including a conversion from a single-family residence to three homes in 1925 –Casa Vicens retains most of Gaudi's original work. This has been painstakingly brought back to its intended splendour through an intensive restoration project to usher it into its next chapter as a museum. Included in this was reinstating the spectacular gallery space, which opens onto the garden, enclosed with revolving blinds in a geometric motif typical of the architect's early style.
Images © Casa Vicens, photo by Pol Viladoms; casavicens.org
Known locally as Casa dels ossos – house of bones – this instantly recognisable masterpiece is defined by its skeletal-like exterior and sculptural stonework. Gaudi often drew from the natural world to inspire forms, and inside you can marvel at some of the most impressive examples, from the sweeping hardwood bannister reminiscent of a creature's backbone in the grand entrance hall to the rib cage-like arches of the attic. The main attraction, however, is the stunning terrace likened to the back of a dragon and resplendent with eye-catching, polychromatic chimneys.
This spectacular imposing cathedral is the most famous of Gaudi's works, not least for the fact that construction continues on this ambitious building even into its 135th year. Taking the traditions of Gothic and Byzantine cathedrals at its base and transforming them into a totally new style of architecture, standing at 172.5 metres high it cuts a towering figure on Barcelona's skyline and is among the tallest religious buildings in the world.
Spanish entrepreneur Eusebi Guell was one of Gaudi's most loyal customers, commissioning the architect to bring to life several large-scale projects. The most famous and enduring, however, is the eponymous Park Guell. Originally conceived as a housing development, it was later converted into a municipal garden. The unique outdoor space features some of the architect's most recognisable creations, including an expansive mosaic-covered bench that snakes its way through the park and a bright salamander guarding the entrance.
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