Mind and blown are words that I would use when first meeting Mr Gaudi’s masterpiece, coming out of a Barcelona metro station in October 1986. A rare magical moment in an otherwise depressing time of my life, but on a plus note it started a lifelong love affair with this architect and city.
This was my first of three different college field – or shall I drinking – trips to Barcelona. Gaudi’s architecture, along with the local night life, was at the centre of these excursions. One the best parts for me was the social interaction with my peers and being valued as an equal, during the 1986 trip this was very much the case. As per my previous blogs around this time I was very much ‘Benny’ no mates. I can’t remember the exact circumstances to how things came about, but an opportunity came along on my A’ level Art course to go to Barcelona – no brianer! Up to then my only foreign experience was the odd day trips to France with the family, and those Channel 4 Red Triangle films.
I think there must have been around fifteen or so students and a couple of tutors who came on this trip. We stayed in a seedy hotel just off La Rambles, a wide plaza with lots of different street stores. Anyway, when we got to the hotel on the first night everyone split up into their little cliques for room sharing, except me. I was left to bunk up with the male tutor, although not in a Jimmy Savile way! This again reinforced the social isolation I was experiencing at the time. That said, everyone included me in the activities, including sampling the local liquor. On the Sunday after the planned arty stuff, a few of us decided to pop into a supermarket to buy some cheap plonk, well I did anyway, and then we headed back to the hotel for some relaxation. No-one had a bottle opener, so it was a case of pushing the cork down into the wine bottle. Oh deary me I had to drink the whole bottle, “Good Afternoon Barcelona” shall we say?
The trip included visits to art galleries and other such places including Gaudi’s ‘Sagrada Família’. Up until then I hadn’t heard anything about this building or its architect. My tutor basically told me it was a crazy un-built cathedral. My first view of the building was coming out the metro station, a massive sculptural structure rising up into the Barcelona sky. Construction started on 19th March 1882 and it is still very much a building site today, probably for the next few decades given the sheer scale of the project. The structures were conceived from Gaudi hanging different masses with string and reversing the shape. This process generated a series of organic forms that translated into the Cathedral’s towers. Apart from this building, there are many other works which were completed by Gaudi in Barcelona.
What I love about Gaudi’s architecture is the complete madness of it, I guess relating to my personality. As previously discussed in my childhood and early adulthood, I struggled with my sanity trying to fit into the so called ‘norm’ to be socially accepted. After a long journey of self-discovery and development, eccentricity is who I am. If others don’t get this side of me, then to quote a ‘Bowling for Soup’ song, ‘A friendly Goodbye’ is in order!
COMING UP in next month’s blog, I find empathy with Eastender’s late Arthur Fowler…
Jarmin Apple November 2019