Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Barcelona Journal II: Up on the Roof

watercolor by Hallie Cohen
“Up on the Roof” was the title of a Drifters song, but it’s where you want to be in Barcelona. Barcelona is literally a roof party in an architectural wonderland. At times it almost looks like a fairytale. On the Passieg to Gracia a brightly enameled Gothic turret on an office building presents a picture book setting against a clear blue sky; further down the street the modernist canopy of  El Corte Ingles, a department store, sweeps dramatically over the sidewalk. The facility with architectural design is almost a genetic attribute that Barcelona’s builders demonstrate with effortless facility. Looking at the dazzling democracy of styles one wonders how a country which cottoned to Franco also produced such imaginativeness in the construction of its buildings. But there was a Spanish Civil War which encompassed both political and artistic convictions (Picasso never returned to Spain because of the Franco dictatorship). Could architectural expression and flourish have been one of the few avenues of free expression during the years of repression under Franco. Gaudi, is obviously Barcelona’s most famous native son, when it comes to architecture, and the spires of the Segrada Familia dominate the landscape. But literally just about any street is a feast with everything plunked down in an almost willy nilly fashion that is so ubiquitous that it not only works, but creates the expectation of non-conformity. Just take a pedestrian mall like the Portal de l’Angel. El Corte reinvents itself in a baroque design. Next door to it The Catalonia Hotel occupies a neo-classic structure and next to that is Zara in a Bauhaus box.

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