I was only 15 years old when, traveling together with my parents on our summer holidays, I discovered Barcelona for the first time, never knowing that, in time, it would become my headquarters, a fundamental part of my life on both a personal and a professional level.
During my teenage years my concerns were completely different from those of other boys of my age. In my native land of Denmark I was already dreaming of meeting in person one of the greatest men in history, Antoni Gaudí.
I shared this passion and desire with Jorgen and Birthe, my parents, as a result of which the experience I lived through in Barcelona two decades ago deeply inspired me to choose a complex professional career such as architecture, with great international figures as clear references.
It couldn’t have happened any other way; we visited one of Gaudí’s greatest works, the Casa Milà, better known as La Pedrera, a singular modernist building constructed between 1906 and 1912 and declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. It was a building originally conceived and constructed to contain homes and it was used as such from 1911 onwards.
Located at number 92, Paseo de Gracia, one of the most important thoroughfares in the city, the house was built for Pere Milà i Camps and Roser Segimon i Artells, a wealthy couple from the Catalan bourgeoisie. As the years went by, while studying a biography of Gaudí and his works, I discovered that the relationship between the architect and Roser Segimon i Artells was very complicated, due to the differences in opinion about the construction, design and finishing touches of the famous piece, to the extent that the owner decided to get rid of a large number of the furnishings designed by Gaudí, redecorating her home in the style of Louis XVI.
La Pedrera is a clear reflection of Gaudí’s artistic peak, the moment at which he was inspired by the organic shapes found in nature, in the same manner as in the Parc Güell, a fine example of the naturalist period of the architect born in Reus. It is definitely a must see for visitors and citizens of the city, in spite of the lines which build up in front of the entrance to the house. It is worth visiting and enjoying the activities and events conducted there.
In spite of it being largely unknown, probably one of the works which made the greatest impact on me during my first trip to Barcelona was the Casa Vicens, the first significant project by the architect, a modernist building located in the old Vila de Gracia which, at the time, was an urban center independent of Barcelona, with its own town council. It currently forms part of the popular Gracia neighborhood, located at number 24 of Las Carolinas Street. Commissioned by Manuel Vicens i Montaner, it was built as a second vacation home for the family, which owned a ceramics factory (this fact is not very clear for some authors). Whatever the case may be, it wouldn’t be crazy to think that they were actually related to the sector when we gaze at the façade of the building, decorated with singular pieces of ceramic tiles.
It was built between 1883 and 1888, when the architect was at the beginning of his professional career, a period influenced by the Orient, principally Mudejar, Byzantine and Persia art, as can be seen in other projects such as the Güell Warehouse and Pavilions and the Capricho de Comillas (the Whim of Comillas), a building designed in 1883 in the Cantabrian town of Comillas.
The Casa Calvet, the Torre Bellesguard, the Casa Batlló… there are so many works by Antoni Gaudí that I needed several trips to enjoy the mastery of this Catalan architect and his artistic imaginarium.
We made a final and essential stop before returning to Copenhagen at the Sagrada Familia, Gaudí’s true masterpiece. A Catholic basilica begun in 1882 – and still under construction – it is the maximum exponent of Catalan modernist architecture and the most visited monument in the whole of Spain.
I was only 15 years old, yet the magna construction deeply impressed and shaped me. Gaudí was only 31 years old when he took charge of the project, whose beginnings were based on the neo-Gothic style, which he reformulated on assuming the task of constructing the building. He dedicated his life to his masterpiece and, in the last 15 years of his life, this dedication became complete devotion.
I often wonder whether we will ever really see La Sagrada Familia finished.
An extraordinary trip, thanks to which my life took a specific path, where I discovered a sensibility, culture and art unique in the world.