Saturday, July 6, 2013

Park Güell

When I agreed to go to Barcelona, I expected a beautiful European city, full of romantic sights and sounds, but I had no idea what I was in for, not really. I mean, it is a beautiful city that has tremendous respect for its past, and great swaths of it are similar to the way they were 500 years ago, surely. And it is a city that loves art. But what I could not have understood is the city's relationship with Gaudi. Never have I encountered a city where one man made such an impression. At first I thought, "Okay, he's kind of like Frank Lloyd Wright, an interesting artist/architect, and the spectacle of his bizarre eye-catching designs is a point of pride for locals, and a photo opportunity for tourists." And, that is true, I suppose, but it is only the surface of something much, much deeper. And I didn't understand it until I took a trip to Park Güell. It made me think of a comment Emerson made in his essay on Love:
The statue is then beautiful, when it begins to be incomprehensible, when it is passing out of criticism, and can no longer be defined by compass and measuring wand, but demands an active imagination to go with it, and to say what it is in the act of doing. The god or hero of the sculptor is always represented in a transition from that which is representable to the senses, to that which is not.
The park is on a high hill that overlooks the entire city, and is so unexpectedly large and varied that I was taken aback. The park is far too large to look at... instead, you become immersed in it, and with all the spectacular views, you find yourself looking through it instead. And shockingly, it is not out of place with the city around it. I could not escape the distinct feeling that, exploring the park, I was no longer in my own mind, but in the mind of Gaudi. And looking out at the city, I found the fanciful colors and swooping shapes were not just in Gaudi's work, but were everywhere in Barcelona. Gaudi simply set them free. Even after I left, I found myself seeing the city differently -- as if the colors and shapes were ready to erupt from every apartment building, from every bank and grocery store. I found myself seeing through Gaudi's lens, as it were. And if this were just about one man, that would be one thing -- but I think it is not. I feel like Gaudi found something special that lives in the heart of everyone in Barcelona, maybe everyone in Spain. He found it, turned it up to 11, and set it free, and a nation said, "Yes... yes, that is truly how we are inside." How else can one explain Sagrada Familia, a cathedral that Gaudi started designing in 1883, and, through the love of the people of Barcelona, is expected to be complete by 2026.

For me, it serves as a testament of what one individual can do when he can see into the hearts of his neighbors, and bring their proudest, truest selves into the light.

1 comment:

  1. There are better novels for Plot and better ones for People but "Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is just about the best I've read for Place. It is set in Barcelona and the city is dominant in the work.
    Like the reading version of watching Woody Allen's Manhattan.