Of course, I always associated Barcelona with Gaudí’s creations: the whimsical buildings, the sculptures and mosaics covered in colorful of pieces of tiles and glass, and – without question, the Sagrada Família. Being a sucker for quirky architecture (Hundertwasser is another favorite), when I finally made it to Barcelona, I made sure to put aside some time (not an easy task, amidst all the going out to bars, restaurants and clubs), so that I could go take a look around Park Güell.
Sure enough, the whimsical buildings, the multicolored mosaic dragon/lizard fountain and the slanted colonnaded tunnel under the viaduct were all there. But what surprised me was the discovery that Gaudi even designed some of the outside floor tiles himself.
Replicas of those tiles are also sold in the souvenir stores, along with the gaudy magnets of the Sagrada Família, the postcards with images of La Pedrera and the lizard/dragon-shaped ashtrays. Because they weren’t so obvious and seemed like they needed some additional explanation, the tile replicas seemed like a nice souvenir to take away from Barcelona. So, I got two.
According to the little note that accompanied them, they are “hydraulic mosaic designed by Gaudí for the “Escofet, 1886 S.A” Company. Gaudí’s original composition is made up of hexagonal pieces, each containing three thirds of three different designs representing marine elements. Gaudí chose a marine theme since the mosaic was meant to be set in Casa Batlló, where the feeling of the sea and the water are omnipresent. Nevertheless, the mosaic was not laid there, but in La Pedrera.”
Both houses – Casa Batlló and La Pedrera, are located on Passeig de Gràcia – one of Barcelona’s major avenues and most important shopping and business areas. Although I did not see their interiors, I was surprised to find that large parts of the sidewalk along the avenue were actually paved in those original tiles. According to my friend Slavka, whom I was visiting in Barcelona, the tiles are often torn out by rabid collectors or simple vandals, and indeed, one could see many of them were either missing or replaced with much simpler ones.
I liked discovering that Gaudí also created such a basic and earthly thing as sidewalk tiles – in addition to the fantastical structures at Park Güell and to the divine in an out-of-this-world-kind-of-way, almost hallucinatory, Sagrada Família, while at the same time still managing to keep it ornate and fill it with meaning. In a way, the idea made the mad architect more earthly and sane in my mind.