2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage

2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage


My mission in publishing this blog is first to provide a living history of my settlement and life in Cuenca, and to provide myself and the reader with a journal account delineating my reasons for why I have chosen to settle in Cuenca. Second, the posts are my way of staying in contact with family and friends back in the states, and to provide them with an understanding of a country and culture that most North Americans have little knowledge and awareness. Third, the blog is open to one and all who wish to compare and contrast the experiences of expat bloggers living in Cuenca, so that you can determine whether or not from your perspective Cuenca is an appropriate move for you. Fourth, my blog provides another example of how expats view and interpret life in Cuenca. Ecuadorians and Cuencanos who may read this blog are especially invited to post comments that may enhance all expats understanding and appreciation of Cuneca and its people, or to correct any misinterpretations in my assumptions and perceptions of Cuencano culture. Finally, I hope I can convey the feeling of love and appreciation that grows within me each passing day for this heavenly city nestled in the Andes and its very special people.

Thursday, June 13, 2019


Cuenca Perspectives by Jim: TRAVELING IN SPAIN: BARCELONA: ANTONIO GAUDI AND...: Antonio Gaudi's (1852-1926) was a Catalan Modernist Architect, who went beyond the modernist styles of his day with many innovations.  ...


Antonio Gaudi's (1852-1926) was a Catalan Modernist Architect, who went beyond the modernist styles of his day with many innovations.  His use of of geometric shapes like the hyperbolic parabolid, the hyperboloid, the helicoid, and the conoid were introductions to Western architectural styles. Gaudi's use of these geometric forms gave a three dimensional effect to arches and pillars found in vaulted ceilings and other structures that did not exist in the earlier Gothic styles.  Gaudi also borrowed from Asian design as well, particularly Indian. 

Gaudi integrated functional and decorative aspects with a series of crafts in his use of ceramics, glass, iron-forging, and carpentry.  Trencadis was a Gaudi innovation, which made use of waste ceramics.  It is said that Gaudi strove  for an organic synthesis of these various techniques and artistic characteristics that he innovated into an organic whole among these aspects and with nature as well.

Gaudi certainly moved in revolutionary directions for his time period.  Symmetry was generally abandoned, while curvilinear structures and designs were used.  Many of Gaudi's designs were mocked in his day as was often the case with artistic innovation, and did appear to be gaudy for his time period and to many Western viewers today.  The word gaudy superseded Gaudi by at least a hundred years.  However, I would not be surprised that the term was used by Gaudi's critics to describe his art.  

Much of Gaudi's designs generally have a fantasy look to them.  Not in the sense of phantom or ghostly, but more in a Fantasy Land found in Disney Land or Disney World; and appear to be designs and decorative arts one would find in something created for appeal to children. I have no idea, if Gaudi had such an intent.  Gaudi appeared to be a forerunner to Salvador Dali who was born in Figures, Spain north of Barcelona, and whose surreal designs often seem like Alice looking down the rabbit-hole and into Wonderland.

Some of the best examples of what I call Gaudi's "Hansel and Greto" gingerbread style of architecture and his use of vivid colors, which can vary with sun-light intensity at various times of the day can be found in the Gruell Park in Barcelona; where many of Gaudi's works are integrated into the park like a small village. I went to the park and saw some beautiful views of the coastal area of boat piers, which reminded me of Beirut, and beautiful views of the beaches and the Mediterranean.  Unfortunately, I arrived at the ticket booth just as the fellow in front of me announced that all the tickets were sold-out.  So I saw little of Gaudi's collection and village.

I have mixed feelings about Gaudi's designs.  His more decorative and curvilenear designs I like in isolation.  However, I don't think I would like an entire neighborhood or city designed in Gaudi's style.
I especially like Gaudi's use of ceramic tiles as they were used on the pillars at Palau de la Musica Catalana, which I presented in a previous post. 

La Sagrada Familia Basilica (The Holy Family Basilica)

The La Sagrada Familia Basilica began construction in 1882 and is anticipated to be completed in 2028.  There are various opinions as to whether the financing to complete the basilica by 2028 is in place.  Obviously, the basilica was dedicated to the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.  The basilica is the top tourist attraction in Barcelona, and one of the top attractions in Spain.

I made my way around the block, which contains the basilica.  The basilica encompasses almost the entire block.   I had the feeling that there were four distinct architectural styles separated in each part of the basilica, which appeared to me when I first arrived as basically a hodge-podge of four distinct buildings  like a conglomeration attempting to give the appearance of one structure, but not truly cohesively whole.  I did not sense the idea that Gaudi had succeeded in creating an organic whole with this basilica.    

I visited again the next day, and had a more positive feeling about the structure and detected more of an organic feeling from my perspective of observing some overlapping in styles that I had not noticed my first day.  However,  I am not convinced that "organic" would be the first description of the basilica that would pop into my mind.

I do enjoy the basilica more when I can view various segments of it as many of my photos present it, although there are some aerial views of the basilica on the Internet, which were impressive, and from the air give from a certain angle a better sense of unity to the structure.  Possibly, because an aerial shot does not show as much detail.

Below is the front of the basilica, which is the first part that was built.  It is the darkest part due to decades of pollution.  The towers are shaped like honeycombs, but are more pointed at the top.  This may have been a feature Gaudi borrowed from Hindu temples found in cities like Varanasi (Barnares), which is the most holiest site to Hindus at the ghats on the Ganges River.  I was more impressed with the towers in India.  To some degree the less precise design of these towers and their materials give to me an appearance of sandcastles that may easily disintegrate.  Whether or not that was Gaudi's intent, I have no idea.

In the photos above and below,as you can see, practically every space is covered with engravings and decorative ornamental structures.  The engravings feature biblical stories and events.

I am attempting to give you perspectives of the exterior of the basilica from many different angles, which are endless and varied--one of the many fascinating features of the structure.

Unfortunately, due to a snafu on my part, I was unable to see the interior of the basilica.  From some of the photos I viewed on the Internet, I may have been quite impressed with the interior.

Possibly, designs like in the photos below would grow on me with time.  I find I can't really engage with the colored attempts at flowers and other objects on this building.  What comes to my mind is the word 'bric-brac', that for me cheapens the appearance of the overall design, and is superfluous, even carnival-like.  Compared to other architectural structures that Gaudi designed-- Guell Park as an example--where his designs and use of color are bold and appropriate to his overall design purpose in the park.  At least Gaudi's use of color in the exterior of the Sacrada Familia was sparing and muted.

Gaudi may have also borrowed from the Hindus the idea of color in sculpture, as Hindu temples in South India, have larger than life figures, very dimensional, and in the brightest colors (dare I say, gaudy), by the tastes of most people who live in Europe, the U.S. and Canada.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  No doubt each of us respond differently to things of beauty.  This was a basilica that I found fascinating and  well worth seeing, but it is not one of my favorites.  The design brings out more extremes in people, than most noteworthy temples of worship architectural designs.  Some people love it, and some people hate it.  One of my friends said he found it to be a deep spiritual experience for him, and seemed exasperated that his wife and I were not as appreciative.

To the left and below are photos of the rear of the basilica. 

The photo to the left is a side view of the basilica.

So Antonio Gaudi brought a symbiosis of traditional and modern styles together in the design and construction of the Sacrada Familia Basilica.  I was surprised that these artistic breakthroughs happened with a man who was devoutly Catholic, who moved in the circle of the Church hierarchy in Barcelona; lived a very strict life; attended mass everyday; often-times fasted to the point of starvation and the loss of his life.  One would think that a man so structured in his personal life would be very tradition-bound; but his artistic creativity and imagination was moving in very different directions.  Antonio Gaudi certainly succeeded in one of the artist's greatest accomplishments--to get his viewers to interact and react with the art by evoking thought, reflection, and feeling.