It is not about what you see.
It’s about how you see it.
Cities are made of dreams. Both of bold and sad, beautiful and broken. Cities feed upon the dreams, the energy, the life force of each and every person that enters, stays, leaves, returns.
Each time I arrive into a new city, I feel a subtle change.
Each time I leave, I also leave, there, a few (or more) dreams – just as well as I take, in the shape of stories, memories, photos, a small part of the city, a special invisible city, a personal version.*
‘For those who pass it without entering, the city is one thing; it is another for those who are trapped by it and never leave. There is the city where you arrive for the first time; and there is another city which you leave never to return. Each deserves a different name.’ (Italo Calvino)
Barcelona is a place where I need to come back, from time to time. And, for somebody prone to changing places and always heading to new cities and countries, that’s pretty special. But Barcelona is special: it is intense, full of histories and contrasts and, above all, effervescently creative in terms of urban vibe.
It is that kind of city where I get lost and found. Feel alone and deeply connected. Overwhelmed and energetic. All – in the same time.
The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightning roads, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls.’ (Italo Calvino)
Barcelona seems to me an infinity pool of architectural worlds, a never ending reflections of mirrors that expand every single detail into vast, new, parallel universes. There’s an incredibly imaginative mix, here, of architectures, of decorative geometries and out of this world creatures that give a surreal, daydreaming-like touch, to some buildings, streets, entire areas.
And I am not talking, here, about the hall of fame of notorious name we all know. Nor about the state of the art constructions.** The subtle charm of Barcelona is, mainly, given by lots of unknown artists and quasi-anonymous architects that turned the streets into huge canvases of fantastic worlds.
Never ending stories. Parallel universes.
‘Stories have no end.
Countries have no line.
Everything you think you know
Maybe blurred and remade
In other lights, at other times.’ (@piecesoflonging)
* It feels to me as if my city travels resemble, somehow, Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. Not the places, themselves, but the thoughts of the traveler.
‘Marco enters a city; he sees someone in a square living a life or an instant that could be his; he could now be in that man’s place, if he had stopped in time, long ago; or if, long ago, at a crossroads, instead of taking one road he had taken the opposite one, and after long wandering he had come to be in the place of that man in the square. By now, from that real or hypothetical past of his, he is excluded; he cannot stop; he must go on to another city, where another of his pasts awaits him, or something perhaps that had been a possible future of his and is now someone else’s present.’
** Antoni Gaudí is, definitely, the most talked about, still this city has got an impressive list of notable architects: Josep Puig i Cadafalch, Josep Goday i Casals, Lluís Domènech i Montaner, Marcel·lià Coquillat, Enric Sagnier, or Francesc Berenguer, Gaudí’s friend and right hand, to name only a few… While the names might be difficult to remember, their work can be seen everywhere around the center, including right near some of Gaudí’s most well-known pieces – just go to Casa Batlló and notice the other 3 buildings on its left – or la illa de la discòrdia.
Besides the must see places, practically all the city center is a vast network of stories reflecting various times and spaces, and playing along with reality and fantastic creatures, as if both of them were equally legitimate.
By the way, there are no less than 500 documented facades, as well as street lights, sculptures, fountains and park benches, here, dating from the 12th until the 20th century, with dragons of various shapes, depicted on them, with or without Saint George (mostly without), turning Barcelona into the city with highest density of dracs per square meter – drac is the Catalan word.
There are, also, lots and lots of other fantastic creatures and monsters on Barcelona’s gargoyles, attics, lamps, balconies, window or door frames. There are, also, hundreds of sgraffito decorative patterns that turn flowers into a kind of enigmatic calligraphy, as well as thousands of original adaptations of what we mainly refer to as the Classical Orders.
And countless ways to mix them…