Colonia Güell and Gaudi


Church (unfinished) at Colonia Güell, Gaudi, 1908-1914

Once I’d met up with the rest of the tour group, I waved goodbye to mass-tourism Barcelona and said hello to Catalan modernism. I imagine that I will be desperate for a straight line by Sunday, but at present I am enamoured of Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926).

Colonia Güell is an model industrial village founded by paternalistic textile industrialist, Eusebi Güell, in 1890. Port Sunlight or Saltaire by the Mediterranean. He provided housing and communal buildings for the workers at his steam-powered factory. The houses are modern for their time – quite daring in their use of unrendered brick. I indulged my taste for brick patterning:


The pièce de résistance is the unfinished church or crypt by Gaudi. It is quite astonishing: not a straight line or smooth surface in it. It looks almost as if it has grown in situ, like a peculiar growth on a tree trunk crossed with a spider. This view of the porch pillars with the pine trunks in the background sums it up perfectly for me:


The impression of tree trunks or even coral continues inside:

The stained-glass windows, inside and out, are wonderful:

as is what would normally be the tympanum, which looks like a patchwork quilt:


It seems right to talk of the arches as ribs or a skeleton:

and I am trying to get my head round catenary arches (like inverted weighted chains):


There is also the alpha and omega built into the structure. . . and from this angle that window is beginning to look like a reptilian eye or an elephant on LSD:


I am sure that Gaudi was both a genius and impossible to work with. This village church was going to rival a cathedral in size . . . but, oh, what a genius!

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