The Ginger Bread House Style

All done!

The Gingerbread House Style

Did you build it?

The Gingerbread House Style

We got it out of the box and plugged it in! It has lights and a moving train and it sings Christmas carols.

The Gingerbread House Style

What about this one?

The Gingerbread House Style

We supervised Jean Pierre Sancho when he made it. We made sure it has lots of decorations. They are all edible!

The Gingerbread House Style

This reminds me of the city of ginger bread houses…

The Gingerbread House Style

The Gingerbread House Style

That’s where we had our first cupcake! So many cupcakes ago now…

The Gingerbread House Style

The ginger bread houses were very pretty!

The two buildings at the entrance to Park Güell
The two buildings at the entrance to Park Güell

Park Güell was designed by Antoni Gaudí upon the request of Count Eusebi Güell, who wanted to build a stylish park for the aristocrats of Barcelona. The Count had planned to build a housing development that would take advantage of the area’s views and fresh air; however, only two show houses were completed. Gaudí himself inhabited one of them, designed by architect Francesc Berenguer in 1904. The house is now a museum showcasing some of Gaudí’s work. The park is a common tourist attraction in Barcelona, and is known for its famous terrace and iconic entrance, flanked by two Gaudí buildings.

The park was built between 1900 and 1914 and was officially opened as a public park in 1926. In 1984, UNESCO declared the park a World Heritage Site under “Works of Antoni Gaudí”.

Park Güell belongs to Gaudí’s naturalist phase (first decade of the 20th century). During this period, the architect perfected his personal style through inspiration from organic shapes found in nature. He put into practice a series of new structural solutions rooted in the deep analysis of geometry and its shapes. To that, Gaudí adds creative liberty and an imaginative, ornamental creation. Starting from a sort of baroquism, his works acquire a structural richness of forms and volumes, free of the rational rigidity or any sort of classic premisses. In the design of Park Güell, Gaudí unleashed all his architectonic genius and put to practice much of his innovative structural solutions that would become the symbol of his organic style and that would culminate in the creation of the Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family (aka Sagrada Familia in Catalan).

Gaudí mixes his flamboyant style with nature to come up with structures that rise from the ground like trees but are identifiable as built elements never-the-less. The simultaneous accommodation of and respect for nature is one of the most beautiful qualities of this work, where Gaudí is said to make visual jokes, experimenting with the relationship between nature and architecture.

The Gingerbread House Style

The Gingerbread House Style

Gaudí built birds nests in the terrace walls. The walls imitate the trees planted on them.

The Gingerbread House Style

Park Güell’s largest attraction is a terrace that overlooks the city of Barcelona, contained by a curved bench flowing around it. Mosaics, ceramic shards, and iron balustrades are all used to create this space, and the comfort of the rigid bench is remarkable. Throughout the project colorful tiling is used as well as playful mosaics and surface treatments. The architecture elegantly accommodates the qualities of the existing landscape, becoming an extension of the landscape itself.

Park Guell Terrace
Park Güell Terrace Bench
Park Güell Terrace
Park Güell Terrace Bench

The unique shape of the serpentine bench enables little bears sitting on it to converse privately, although the square is large. The bench is tiled and in order to dry up quickly after it rains, and to stop people from sitting in the wet part of the bench, small bumps were installed by Gaudí.

The Gingerbread House Style

Another colourful mosaic work is the park dragon.

Park Guell Dragon
Park Guell Dragon

Doric columns support the roof of the lower court which forms the central terrace, with serpentine seating round its edge.

The Gingerbread House Style

Don Eusebi Güell (from 1910 the Count of Güell) met the young architect, Antoni Gaudí, following a visit to the World Fair held in Paris in 1878, where he had seen Gaudí’s work at the Spanish Pavilion. Returning to Barcelona, Güell searched out the author of the design. From that time until Güell’s death in 1918, he and Gaudí became inseparable. Their friendship of almost 40 years was much more than a relationship between client and architect. In 1906, each went to live in his own respective house in Güell Park, and there they were in contact on an almost daily basis. Güell saw Gaudí as the man who could provide him with uniquely designed buildings and he allowed Gaudí to develop his ideas in absolute freedom. For Eusebi Güell, Gaudí designed the pavilions of the Güell Estate (1884-1887), the Palacio Güell (1886-1888), the Güell Cellars (1895-1897), the Crypt of the Güell Estate Church (1908-1917), the Park Güell (1900-1914) and other smaller works.

It says here that Antoni Gaudí’s unique, personal and incomparable architectural language defies classification. No it doesn’t! It’s the ginger bread house style! Look at the Casa Batlló and the Casa Milà!

The Gingerbread House Style

The Casa Batlló and the Casa Milà were the culmination of Gaudí’s naturalistic architecture. The Casa Batlló, covered with pieces of coloured glass ceramic, and the Casa Milà, with its cliff-like aspect, seem to be symbols of sea and earth.

Casa Batlló
Casa Batlló
Casa Milà
Casa Milà

Casa Batlló, built between 1904 and 1906 in the heart of the city, is the most emblematic work of the brilliant Catalan architect. It is a masterpiece of shape, colour and light. Gaudí’s style encompasses all that defines the Art Nouveau, a School of French decorative artists from the 1890s who took influence from sinuous shapes in plants and nature. He explored his interests in flowing shapes, patterns and colors in the Casa Batlló, which was designed for the wealthy cotton baron Josep Batlló as a jolting contradiction to the rigid forms that surround it.

Gaudí gave Casa Batlló a facade that is original, fantastical and full of imagination. He replaced the original facade with a new composition of stone and glass. He ordered the external walls to be redesigned to give them a wavy shape, which was then plastered with lime mortar and covered with a mosaic of fragments of coloured glass and ceramic discs. The front facade reveals striking textures, colors, and imagery that work together to conjure thoughts of fairy tales and phantasmal dreams. The larger sculptural pieces that create the boundaries of the balconies and that frame the entrance resemble bones, suggesting a septum, eyebrows or clavicles, which keep to the anthropomorphic tone. The balcony railings in the shape of masks are made of wrought iron cast in a single piece and are secured by two anchor points in such a way that the balconies partly project outwards.

As a whole, the facade is a joyful and allegorical representation, full of organic elements and colours and charged with symbolism, a wonderful spectacle in the city which inspires the most sublime sentiments in all those who gaze upon it. The house is a dialogue between light and colour.

Casa Batlló Facade
Casa Batlló Facade

At the top of the facade, the roof is in the shape of an animal’s back with large iridescent scales. The spine which forms the ornamental top is composed of huge spherical pieces of masonry in colours which change as you move along the roof-tree from one end to the other.

Casa Battlo, Chimneys on Roof
Casa Battlo, Four chimney stacks on the roof, with the dragon’s spine roof arch behind

The dramatic humpback mound “is clad on one side by armour plating resembling an armadillo’s, while on the other side it is covered with trancedis fragments producing a subtle white-into-orange sheen. The spine is dotted with bulbous green and blue vertebrae, suggesting that these might be organisms in themselves, while the flowing lines where roof meets facade are edged with other armatures of saurian bone and joint.”

The creaturesque resemblance is made strikingly apparent at night, when the facade glows and haunts with it’s bone-like skeletal structures and dramatic shadows. Antoni Gaudí worked closely with a textile manufacturer named Josep Maria Jujol who assisted primarily in the ornamentation and use of color on the surface treatments.

Casa Battlo
Casa Batlló

The interior is just as alive as it appears from the street; the knobbly spine lines the staircase through flowing wall forms of scale-like surfaces. The winding and twisting exhibited in the decorative features of doors, frames, peepholes, moldings and screens are all interpretations of the natural forms that inspired Gaudí’s art nouveau style. The long gallery of the main suite, the Noble Floor, overlooking Passeig de Gràcia, is composed of wooden-framed windows which are opened and closed by raising and lowering using counterweights. They are unusual in that there are no jambs or mullions, so that it is possible to raise all of the window panes and have a continuous panoramic opening running the full width of the room. The Noble Floor was the residence of the Batlló family.

Casa Batlló Interior of Noble Floor
Casa Batlló Interior of Noble Floor

From the entrance hall on the ground floor, a sturdy iron railing separates the private access to the Batlló family residence. A grand wooden staircase leads up from a hall with vaulted ceilings and skylights shaped like tortoises’ shells. The spine of some huge animal carved from fine hardwood rises up as a banister through impossible spaces, giving the whole space an underwater atmosphere, transporting visitors to the fantasy world of Jules Verne. Here, the idea of the depths of the sea is very believable, with colours and shades of the surface of the sea and sand, and other marine allusions.

Casa Batlló Staircase
Casa Batlló Staircase

The building atrium is an extremely important part of the refurbishment. Gaudí enlarged the light well and covered the walls entirely in relief glazed tiles in varying shades of blue, which are darker in colour at the top and lighter towards the bottom, thus achieving an even distribution of the light. The windows are smaller higher up where more natural light can enter, whereas they get larger as you move further down. Below the windows there are wooden slits which can be opened and closed to ensure good ventilation. In the middle of the light well he installed the lift, with its fine original wooden cabin which still functions today.

The vast central skylight is composed of huge pieces of iron and glass panes, and it spans the large building well which was widened by Gaudí. It is this huge skylight that allows a cascade of light to enter and illuminate the whole building well.

Casa Batlló Atrium
Casa Batlló Atrium

The work as a whole is a marvel of ornamental design thanks to its use of emerging trades. Gaudí worked with the most highly skilled craftsmen in every profession. He had a great advantage over other architects. He came from a family of craftsmen, especially copper and iron smiths, and as a child he was trained to be an iron smith. Later he became familiar with carpentry, iron casting and modeling in plaster. This training enabled him to direct his workmen in logical ways that were easily understood. The transformation of wrought iron, in which curves are not only for rhetorical and aesthetic purposes, but also provide structural support; undulating works in wood such as three-dimensional doors with surprising embossed patterns; colourful stained-glass windows which filter the natural light; raised ceramic tiles; decorative pieces of masonry made from Montjuic sandstone: all of these elements are testament to the skill of the craftsmen of the period.

The loft, which is an area of well-ventilated sweeping spaces reminiscent of Mediterranean architecture, stands out on account of its arrangement of arches. From the main room of the loft, visitors can observe Gaudí’s wonderful and organic world. In it, you can appreciate the structure of ribs and breastbone which create the parabolic arches, the latest in modernist design, which support the roof terrace. The spiral stairs leading to the roof terrace, with their structural minimalism, are also very striking. The iron handrail, with its simple lines, is a 20th century sculpture in its own right.

Casa Batllo Loft
Casa Batlló Loft

Moving through the house, visitors are constantly surprised by the details which they discover with every step. The doors of each apartment are labelled in a modernist script specially designed by Gaudí for Casa Batlló. The massive windows on the landings of the communal stairwell, which are translucent rather than transparent, allow light to pass through selectively, while at the same time, depending on how you look at them, distort the shades of blue of the building well into beautiful waves of the sea. The shapes of the door handles, banisters, skylights, etc., are all ergonomically designed. It is the definitive work of art, with the artist encouraging everything to work together: design, space, colour, shape and light.

As can always be anticipated in the works of Gaudí, there is a recurring religious imagery which is achieved almost subliminally. There are embedded and semi-concealed religious images and texts planted in the upper levels of the building, as well as in the small details around the facade. The very tip of the tower sits one of Gaudí’s signature pieces, a four-pointed transverse cross. Gill suggests that the goal was to point out that “religion can embrace humour, fantasy and the absurd.” It can also be interpreted as a message to God that he was building in His name, instead of for fame or glorification of wealth.

Casa Batllo roof architecture
Casa Batllo roof architecture

Gaudí did not like to draw his designs, but rather to build models. He always used traditional techniques and achieved surprising results with them. In many of his buildings he made use of the bóveda tabicada, or Catalan vault, a timbrel-vault construction system that had been in frequent use since the 15th century, a slender shell vault formed by only two or three layers of brick joined with plaster or mortar at their small faces. Using this method he constructed vaults in the forms of hyperbolic paraboloids or hyperboloids, but also created a sculptural three-dimensionality that was totally new. The chimneys and ventilators as well as the stairways exits of the Casa Milà were built in this way, as were the roofs of Bellesguard and the Casa Batlló.

Model of Casa Mila
Model of Casa Milà

With its undulating façade and surrealist sculptural roof, Casa Milà, popularly known as ‘La Pedrera’ (the stone quarry), appears more organic than artificial, as if it were carved straight from the ground.

Constructed in 1912 for Roser Segimon and Pere Milà, the building is quite unique. It rode roughshod over any architectural dictat previously laid down. The curves, patterns and spires of Gaudí’s unusual buildings did sit within the Victorian spirit of decoration, but cannot be put into a single style. Casa Milà exemplifies the excitement in architecture around the Victorian period and represents architectural creativity at its finest. A ginger bread house!

The building is divided into nine levels: basement, ground floor, mezzanine, main floor, four upper floors, and attic. The ground floor acted as the garage, the mezzanine for entry, the main floor for the Milàs, and the upper floors for rent. The building surrounds two interior courtyards, making for a figure-eight shape in plan.

Casa Milà Courtyard
Casa Milà Courtyard

On the roof is the famous sculpture terrace. Practically, it houses skylights, emergency stairs, fans, and chimneys, but each function’s envelope takes on an autonomously sculptural quality which has become a part of the building itself.

Casa Mila Roof
Casa Milà Roof
Casa Milà Roof
Casa Milà Roof

Structurally, the building is divided between structure and skin. The stone façade has no load-bearing function. Steel beams with the same curvature support the facade’s weight by attaching to the structure. This allowed Gaudí to design the façade without structural constraints, and ultimately enabled his conception of a continuously curved façade. The structure holding up the roof, too, allows for an organic geometry. Composed of 270 parabolic brick arches of varying height, the spine-like rib structure creates a varied topography above it.

Casa Milà Attic
Casa Milà Attic

Formally, the façade can be read in three sections: the street façade, spanning the ground floor; the main façade, including the main and upper floors; and the roof structure, which houses the attic and supports the roof garden. Made of limestone blocks, the curve of the main façade has a weighty and textured quality of the organic. Above it is a curvaceous mass on which surrealist anthropomorphic sculptures perch. Their presence contributes to the almost flowing dynamism of the building’s aesthetic.

Casa Mila Balcony
Casa Milà Balcony

This looks like our kind of room…

Casa Mila Childrens Room
Casa Milà Childrens Room

The Casa Milà, which was ultimately a controversial building, contributed greatly to the Modernista movement and modernism as a whole. It pushed formal boundaries of rectilinearity and, as Gaudí intentionally drew from natural and organic forms for the building’s shape, significantly inspired practices of biomimicry. Gaudí was a genius of structure and form, and the Casa Milà attests to that.

Gaudí constructed a building integrally, from its foundation and structural framework to the smallest decorative and ornamental detail. He designed furniture, windows, wrought iron accessories and every type of auxiliary element, never repeating any model. Each Gaudí building has its own special characteristics and looks like none of the others. Each was conceived in its integrity and constitutes a unity in which all of the elements are perfectly coordinated and exclusive to that building. You’ll remember that Victor Horta did the same, and he took the design as far as attempting to design the outfits for the family so they could fit in better with the house before the client said enough already! Gaudí also had points of friction with his clients, but not over outfits. Mrs Milà complained that there was no straight wall to place the Steinway piano, which Roser Segimon played often and quite well. Gaudí’s response was blunt: “So play the violin.”

Casa Milà Front Gate
Casa Milà Front Gate

This has been a looooong trip! Very nice of them to make chairs available for little bears to rest…

The Gingerbread House Style

The last stop is La Sagrada Familia.

Construction of the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família began in 1882, more than a century ago. The temple is still under construction, with completion expected in 2026. It is perhaps the best known structure of Catalan Modernisme, drawing over three million visitors annually. Gaudí worked on the project until his death in 1926, in full anticipation he would not live to see it finished. If you think you might not live to see it finished either (there is no guarantee of completion in 2026) this video attempts to show you what La Sagrada Familia will look like when completed.

Gaudí was appointed architect in 1883 at 31 years of age, following disagreements between the temple’s promoters and the original architect, Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano. He maintained del Villar’s Latin cross plan, typical of Gothic cathedrals, but departed from the Gothic in several significant ways. Most notably, Gaudí developed a system of angled columns and hyperboloidal vaults to eliminate the need for flying buttresses. Rather than relying on exterior elements, horizontal loads are transferred through columns on the interior.

Sagrada Familia - A Forest in Abstraction
Sagrada Familia – A Forest in Abstraction

Gaudí was never able to understand why architects based their buildings on the simple geometry of line and plane and on regular solid forms, since such forms either do not exist, or exist only rarely, in nature. Nature by contrast, makes extraordinary structures with fibrous elements that constitute bone, wood, muscle and tendon – a geometry of straight lines in space forming four types of surfaces: helicoids, conoids, hyperboloids and hyperbolic paraboloids. The full development of Gaudí’s greatest geometric refinement occurs in the church of the Sagrada Familia. He reached this stage between 1916 and 1926, working with plaster models to a scale of 1:25 for the entire building and 1:10 for the structure of the naves. The reconstructed models are exhibited in the church museum.

Model of Sagrada Familia
Model of Sagrada Familia

The complex shapes of hyperboloids, parabolas, helicoids and conoids allow for a thinner, finer structure, and are intended to enhance the temple’s acoustics and quality of light. Apart from the plaster models, Gaudí also devised a system of strings and weights suspended from a plan of the temple on the ceiling. From this inverted model he derived the necessary angles of the columns, vaults, and arches. This is evident in the slanted columns of the Passion facade, which recall tensile structures but act in compression.

Gaudí embedded religious symbolism in each aspect of La Sagrada Familia, creating a visual representation of Christian beliefs. He designed three iconic facades for the basilica, the Glory, Nativity, and Passion facades, facing south, east, and west, respectively. The sculpting of the Nativity facade recalls smooth, intricate corbelling and was overseen by Gaudi. The Passion Facade is characterized by the work of Josep Maria Subirachs, whose angular sculptures extend the modernist character of the temple. The sculptor Etsuro Sotoo is responsible for the window ornaments and finials, which symbolize the Eucharist.

The central nave soars to a height of 45 meters, and is designed to resemble a forest of multi-hued piers in Montjuïc and granite. The piers change in cross-section from base to terminus, increasing in number of vertices from polygonal to circular. The slender, bifurcating columns draw the eye upward, where light filters through circular apertures in the vaults. These are finished in Venetian glass tiles of green and gold, articulating the lines of the hyperboloids.

Sagrada Familia Nave
Sagrada Familia Nave
Sagrada Familia Nave Roof
Sagrada Familia Nave Roof

Once completed, La Sagrada Familia will feature eighteen towers composed to present a unique view of the temple from any single vantage point. Four bell towers representing the Apostles crown each facade, reaching approximately 100 meters in height. At the north end, a tower representing the Virgin Mary will stand over the apse. The central tower will reach 72 meters in height and symbolize Christ, surrounded by four towers representing the Evangelists.

Sagrada Familia - Gaudi Model of Completed Church
Sagrada Familia – Gaudí Model of Completed Church

Even as construction continues, older portions are undergoing cleaning and restoration. The temple has relied entirely on private donations since its inception, and has seen many delays due to lack of funding. A particularly significant setback occurred during the Spanish Civil War, when Gaudí’s workshop was destroyed, including much of the documentation he left behind.

Subsequent generations of craftsman and architects have relied on the remaining drawings and plaster models to advance the project, adhering to Gaudí’s vision as closely as possible. As a result, the design of the temple is a collaboration spanning centuries. Gaudí himself viewed the project as the collective work of generations. “I will grow old but others will come after me. What must always be conserved is the spirit of the work, but its life has to depend on the generations it is handed down to and with whom it lives and is incarnated.”

Gaudí died on the 10th of June 1926 after being knocked down by a tram while making his way, as he did every evening, to the Sagrada Família from the Church of Sant Felip Neri. After being struck he lost consciousness, and nobody suspected that this dishevelled old man who was not carrying any identity papers was the famous architect. He was taken to the Santa Cruz Hospital, where he was later recognised by the Priest of the Sagrada Família. He was buried two days later in that very church, following a funeral attended by throngs of people: most of the citizens of Barcelona came out to bid a final farewell to the most universal architect that the city had ever known.

When Gaudí died in 1926, the new Bauhaus building designed by Walter Gropius had just been erected. This was the culminating movement of rationalism, of Le Corbusier, Siegfried Giedion and the Congres Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne. This architecture of simple geometric form, of purely abstract conception, was at odds with the work of Gaudí, which was considered baroque and irrational. The next generation of architects continued to understand Gaudian thought in a similar way, and it was not until the Gaudí exhibition of 1952, on the centenary of his birth, that critics and scholarly writers began to discover the value of his architecture.

It was fun for little bears to discover Gaudí!

Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia

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