Imagine a place that bends and curves at every angle like the cascading waves of the Mediterranian Sea. A place where the fireplace is carved like a roasting mushroom and the dining-room light looks down on you like an eye devoured in a whirlpool. Imagine a place where vertical vents open and close like a fish’s gills, where the glass gives you the illusion of swimming underwater and where the loft arches like the spine of a beast. A beast that sits atop this magnificent facade with shingled scales and a bulbous spine. This place breathes life as it mimics the not-so-distant sea and the beauty of nature. It is the masterpiece of the brilliant Antoni Gaudí; Casa Batlló.
Casa Batlló took my breath away as it plunged me into the depths of the Mediterranian Sea. The building is distinguishably unique as you coast down the prestige Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona and feast upon the astonishingly colourful glass and ceramic mosaic tiles. These tiles reflect against the sun and give the illusion of a rippling lake scattered with water lilies. In front of the large windows on the main floor, there are several fine bone-like columns that appear like vines are growing out of the building. These columns are paired with balconies that look like fish-skeleton heads and a rich sandstone surface, which alludes to the house’s local name of casa dels ossos (house of bones).
When you dive through the doors of this UNESCO World Heritage modernist building, you will see that there are hardly any straight lines. Gaudí refrained from using any straight lines in his designs to make his buildings look as natural as possible. Every detail within the building is designed to mimic nature and follow the flow of the sea from the wooden winding staircases to the carefully crafted doors. In the centre of the building, there is a lightwell that begins with navy blue titles where the sun shines the most and gradually descends to lighter shades of blue at the bottom of the lightwell where the sun shines the least.
At the top of this aquatic representation, there is an arched roof with tiles that grade from green on the right side, to a deep blue and violet in the centre, to red and pink on the left side. These tiles have a metallic sheen and stimulate the varying scales of the back of a dragon. In front of the dragon, there is a turret with a blooming cross at the top, which has been speculated to represent the spear of Saint George (the patron saint of Catalonia), who plunged his lance into the back of the dragon.
The original building was made in 1877, but Josep Batlló, a textile industrialist who owned a few factories in the city, bought it in 1900 because of its location in the centre of Passeig de Gràcia. Batlló hired Gaudí in 1904 to redesign the building and only two years later, it became the underwater castle we see today.
Casa Batlló is a magnificent work of creativity and imagination that exemplifies Gaudí’s adoration of nature from the colourful tiles to the rolling walls.
Arc de Triomf is a 30-metre arch that towers over Passeig de Lluís Companys street in Barcelona. It was built by architect Josep Vilaseca i Casanova as the main access gate for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair. This extraordinary arch marks the entrance to Parc de la Ciutadella down a walkway of palm trees and pedestrians. The arch features a red brick Moorish-inspired style called neo-Mudejar and stone sculptures from various artists including Josep Reynés, Josep Llimona, Antoni Villanova and Torquat Tassó. The arch features numerous symbolic sculptures that represent agriculture, science, arts, industry and commerce. Among one of the most prominent symbols in the arch are the bats on the two pillars, which was the emblem of King Jaume I, a former king who ruled during a time of prosperity in Barcelona.
Arc de Triomf poses as a civic monument that’s main purpose was to welcome all nations to the Barcelona World Fair. Today the arch serves as an important and beautifully crafted landmark of the city.
Tarragona is located on the Costa Daurada about 100 kilometres from Barcelona. The city was founded in 218 BC and remains the oldest Roman settlement on the Iberian peninsula. The city still displays a wealth of ruins in one of Spain’s most important Roman sites, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000. The city houses a total of 11 Roman constructions, the most popular being Les Ferreres Aqueduct, a giant Roman aqueduct; Passeig Arqueològic, a park featuring Roman walls, sculptures and gardens; the Roman theatre of Tarraco, an ancient Roman theatre; and Circ Romà, a first century CE Roman chariot-racing track and tower. Tarragona serves as a clash between Roman history and beautiful beaches with a lively port that serves as a transporting hub for petroleum.
Like Pompeii, Herculaneum is an ancient Roman city that was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. The city stands eight kilometres from Naples, Italy; however, contrarily to Pompeii, Herculaneum was not destroyed by volcanic ash, but rather a day later from pyroclastic flows, which are fast-moving currents of hot gas and volcanic matter. Only a few centimetres of ash fell over Herculaneum, causing little damage. The city, however, endured six pyroclastic flows that solidified the city. This pyroclastic material rapidly buried the city from the bottom up and preserved it in roughly 20 metres of carbonized ash. This natural time capsule preserved wooden and other organic-based objects such as roofs, furniture, doors, cloth and even food –carbonized loaves of bread were found inside some ovens.
For many years it was thought that the inhabitants of the city evacuated before the city was destroyed, but in recent years around 300 skeletons were discovered along the seashore. In 1981, 55 skeletons were discovered in the city, which can now be seen below three different arches as visitors exit the city. These inhabitants were most likely killed by the extremely high temperatures from the pyroclastic flows that reached up to 250°C.
Herculaneum was a wealthier town than Pompeii as it possesses an extensive array of luxurious homes with a more lavish use of coloured marble cladding. The name Herculaneum is connected to the Greek god Hercules, which indicates that the city was originally Greek.
The city was forgotten for over 1,600 years until the digging of a deep well in 1709 revealed some statues. The city continued to be excavated in the 18th century; however, 75 percent of the city remains buried under the Italian towns of Erculano and Portici.
Herculaneum preserves, in great detail, the private life of the ancient Romans and an in-depth explanation of the past. Unfortunately, much like Pompeii, after the city was excavated it was exposed to the elements and the interruption of humans, causing it to deteriorate. The way of nature is absolutely remarkable in its ability to both destroy cities, but yet keep it perfectly preserved for hundreds of years.
Pompeii is one of Mother Nature’s greatest attempts to preserve history. It is an ancient Roman city about 23 km from Naples that was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD along with Herculaneum, Stabia, Torre Annunziata and other communities. The city is about 8 km from Mount Vesuvius, covers approximately 67 hectares and was a major city in the region of Campania. The city was buried in about 6 metres of volcanic ash and pumice (volcanic rock) and is estimated to have had up to 11,500 inhabitants at the time of destruction.
The city was founded between the 6th and 7th Century BC by the Osci people and came under the domination of Rome in the 4th Century BC, giving the city extremely ancient roots. In 62 CE the city experienced an earthquake that damaged many buildings, which were not fully restored 17 years later went Mount Vesuvius erupted.
The city was lost for about 1,500 years until its initial rediscovery in 1599 and broader uncovering 150 years later. The ash, pumice and volcanic debris covered the city more than 6 metres deep and perfectly preserved it in a time capsule. Archaeologists have even been able to see the exact position a person was in at the time of death by pouring cement into the hollows formed in the volcanic ash to make body casts. The objects and the buildings in the city have been preserved for more than a millennium because of the lack of air and moisture when the city was underground. The work to uncover Pompeii is extremely important as it marked the start of the modern science of archeology.
The burial and destruction of the city have allowed us to see the social, economic, religious and political life of the ancient Roman city. Unfortunately, since the city has been uncovered it is endangered by weather, tourists, vandalism and vegetation. In July 2008, the Italian government declared a one-year state of emergency for the site and appointed a special commissioner to look after Pompeii.
This ancient Roman city is a remarkable display of the force of nature and of a city permanently frozen in time.