Catalan State Of Mind

May 23, 2013

I can’t speak to the current state of affairs here in Barcelona, but from purely an aesthetic perspective, it’s hard not to admire the civic bravery of the place. Maybe bravery is too big a word. Let’s call it chutzpah.

gaudidream
It’s as if they allowed their collective imagination to run wild. You want to do what? With those curlicues and the bendy spires? Sure. Why not? Go nuts.

I’m talking Antoni Gaudí of course. An early starchitect practitioner. His creations don’t so much dot the cityscape as they dominate it. La Pedrera apartments. La Sagrada Familia church. Parc Guell.

But these weren’t simply one-offs. Gaudi was part of — albeit a very large part of — the Modernista movement of the late-19th and early-20th centuries. An artistic expression of Catalan nationalism that endeavoured to distinguish the region and the people from the geographic and political borders that bound it.

parcguell
What’s remarkable to me is that not only was it allowed to happen on such a scale but it was allowed to happen at all. I just cannot fathom such acceptance of so radical a transformation at an official level. Good god, we can’t even get on the same page to build much needed transit. Never mind unleashing a Gaudí to run amok throughout the city.

It’s not about the individual buildings. We have those. It’s more to do with the bigger idea of defining the place where you live. Beyond just how it looks, but how it works.

It’s interesting to be in a place like Barcelona as the casino debate in Toronto winds up in an outright rejection of the idea. A casino was never about anything less mundane than money. In terms of actual city building, it was a dud, a non-starter. Nothing more than a dedication to individual interest and entertainment. A terrible, terrible way to forge any sense of community or civic-mindedness.

gaudi
The trick will be to put something in its place that does that. To use the reprieve from the onslaught of special interests as an opportunity to create something really special. We need to go a little Gaudí, not so much in actual design but in an adventuresomeness of spirit.

gaudily submitted by Cityslikr