“Psst…I’ll tell you a secret.” He tilts his head and looks at me with an intriguing gaze. “All you see here, in all its inexplicable splendor, was once only a dream, a vision… La vida es sueño, no? (Life is a dream, right?)
Is Barcelona’s most eminent artist-architect really quoting sixteenth-century poet and writer Pedro Calderon de la Barca here, or are the sounds I hear distorted by the loud noises coming from the proud and fierce Catalan protesters nearby? “Sí sí, you heard it just right”, the middle-aged man with the dreamy yet determined look in the eyes assures me. He must be some kind of mind reader on top of being a surrealist genius! “Come on now, I‘ll take you along on a tour of my Barcelona, si vols? (If you like in Catalan)
Alas, how can I refuse? It’s my fifth time in the vibrant capital of the Spanish province of Catalonia, and I am definitely molt (very in Catalan) keen on hearing all the good stuff straight from the freaking talented horse’s mouth.
Parc Guell´s abundance of whimsical mind-adventures
The first sight we visit is one of my favorite sights in Barcelona, the infamous Parc Guell, a surrealistic art lover’s dream par excellence, where stunning viaducts, whimsical grottoes, and impossibly romantic winding staircases enchant visitors and bring them back in touch with the endless excitement and exuberance that lives within us in the form of our inner children.
Think Charlie’s chocolate factory meets Alice in Wonderland meets Mary Poppins doing a tapdance on Salvador Dali’s head and you might grasp the level of plain-fun-creativity that you will encounter at Parc Guell. “Ah el meu parc….” (Ah, my parc in Catalan), Gaudi enunciates with a mix of nostalgia, longing, and pride in his voice.
“I don’t want to brag, but some people out there would say that this is undoubtedly one of my masterpieces! Good old Eusebi Guell was indeed a loyal friend, patron, and successful entrepreneur, and I received many a commission from him. To be honest, some of them never even made it off paper… but let’s go back to my parc, shall we?”
“Sure”, I mumble curiously in reply, while taking in the myriad of multicolored ceramic fragments that decorate the snake-shaped- form bench on the parc’ s magnificent terrace.
Everyone loves an escape from time to time, and Park Guell makes Spirits and humans feel so fine
I hear the tantalizing yet calming sounds of drums emerging from the pine-tree lined park to my back, and I let my gaze wander attentively over the horizon, where the bustling Barcelona cityscape meets the Mediterranean ocean, waters glistening in the warm Spanish (or shall I say Catalonian?) sun.
“ L’ estimo tant aqui” (I love it so much here,in Catalan), Gaudi sighs while taking a puff from his pipe. Where did that pipe just come from?! Probably just manifested out of thin air. Anything is possible, right?
Gaudi continues: “I even had my own home here – the Casa Museu Gaudi in the Carrer d Olot occupies the house where I once lived. ” I sense the architect´s sadness about having to leave his house behind when moving into Spirit form and offer to get going. “Shall we explore more of your masterpieces?”, I ask him encouragingly. “Sounds good. Let’s head to La Sagrada Familia next – I don’t want to brag, but some peeps do say it’s one of my masterpieces!”
“What inspired you to create all these mind-blowingly beautiful architectural jewels?”, I ask him curiously while we admire the Nativity facade of the Sagrada Familia church. My journalistic, inquisitive mind cannot be halted, not even by Gaudi in spirit form giving me a tour deluxe of the stunning seaside city’s famous sights.
“Well, you know”, he is quick to answer while eyeing his yet-to-be-finished modernist church with some recognizable pride – andwho could blame THAT man and surrealist genius for it!
Inspired by nature: The birth of a genius
“They say you just understand live in hindsight, and as a Spirit, I can confirm that theory. As a child, I was a bit of a delicate flower, so I had to spend lots and lots of time resting at my family’s summer house in Riudoms, it must have been around 1859, 1860 or so. Mind you, that was before Social…how do you call it again?… Media and all that took over people´s minds.
So there I was, Antoni Gaudi i Comet, inventor-to-be of a new and incomparable architectural language that defied classification..just resting away amid nature. The irony is: Having that much time to contemplate the secrets of nature filled me with an indomitable will to recover, to live, to create, to feel the rush of a life well lived in my veins, to explode in a symphony of creativity, pure life-force, and endlessly attractive manifestation of my essence...Wouldn’t you agree that Nature is the supreme mistress and crowning achievement of the Creator?“
“Sure,” I reply hesitantly.
“So, what you see here, and in my many other works like Casa Mila or Casa Battlo, is me following the very patterns of nature, honoring its laws, and tracing its course – what you see is me plus divine inspiration plus mother nature’s bountiful beauty manifested. But that´s enough chatter, let’s head inside now …”
Where the holy and the whole meet: La Sagrada Familia
While Gaudi and I step into the UNESCO listed church, and one of Europe’s most unconventional houses of worship, located in the northern part of Barcelona, I am immediately filled with an energy of inexplicable and crystal clear peace. The kind of peace that washes away any thoughts, questions, or concerns, and lets you float effortlessly in the ease of your own being, content, safe, and nourished within every cell of your body and every inch of your soul.
“Magnificent, right?”, Gaudi whispers awe-inspired by the creation he set in motion. The Sagrada Familia holds an energy all of its own, and yet, one that’s unmistakably universal. The peace in it touches us at least as deep as the 18 spindly towers of it that are soaring above all others of Barcelona´s monuments are high.
“Spirituality, or maybe rather mysticism, and a rebellious spirit are oftentimes intricately connected“, Gaudi muses while we slowly meander through the magnificent interior of the church.
“Take my example – I was commissioned in 1883 to design my Basilica as a neo-Gothic church, that’s what the powers to be expected me to do. Instead, I followed the longing of my own spirit| being and went for it – I created a pretty cool signature example of my acclaimed surrealistic Art Nouveau architecture. How would you young people, well, alive people, call it nowadays? Ah yes- going with the flow! I went with the flow, and had no rigid ideas or plans in mind – instead, I altered to and added to the plans as work progressed. John Lennon knows best – Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans, and so it was! My egoic mind thought that the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family in Spanish) would be finished after 10 to 15 years, and here we are, 2020, pandemicky times, and still a work in progress!”
I take in the opulent and decorative details of the ceiling and admire how the colorful stained-glass windows facilitate the flow of ethereal light into the interior. Then, Gaudi lightly taps me on the shoulder and says goodbye with a twinkle in his eye. “I have to leave to discuss new project ideas with Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, the famous German architect, now, and he is REALLY into punctuality. Those Germans! But, my dear, keep this in mind – the Sagrada Familia is a work that’s in the hands of God and the will of the people – and so is the state of this amazing, confusing, and colorful world that you are blessed to live in, don’t you think? Adeu!”
Back to you, dear reader: If you could meet one artist, dead or alive, who would it be, and why? As always, would love to hear from you! Stay well, wild, and curious:)