Thursday, September 30, 2010
Reflection on Gaudi
The apartments we saw on one of the upper floors was fascinating in its early 20th century domestic detail, but the real joy was the roof terrace, with its serried ranks of helmeted chimneys and ventilators like soldiers of Sparta or Middle Earth, glittering with tile work (the trencadis, or broken ceramic pieces) or smooth concrete. Wandering the undulating walkways in the bright sun was an exhilarating experience, at once surreal and calming, as if the equilibrium between earth and sky was mirrored in the architecture.
A comment on my earlier post about La Sagrada Familia suggested that it was a waste of resources to complete a building that belonged to the tastes of a previous era, and while I always acknowledge that de gustibus non est disputandum, I shall dispute the idea that resources spent on art are wasted. Many years ago, a teacher I admired gave me notes he'd used in teaching poetry to recalcitrant adolescents, the first words of which were: Poetry, like all the arts, is useless. It went on to enumerate the benefits to the spirit of art, but that first line never failed to bring forth a protest.
Yes, we can concentrate on feeding the poor and ensuring that people are properly housed, and such are the proper aims of society. But any society that cannot find the lightness of spirit - and yes, maybe the lunacy - to invest in something of beauty (taste, again!) misses something really important, I think. And of course, we can argue that all these workmen drilling and cutting and polishing in La Segrada Familia are being paid to do so, and their families are better off because of their labour, and the community benefits from all the paying punters like me who go to gaze and wonder.
No, I was thrilled by what I saw - the Basilica, the unfinished Crypt in Colonia Güell, and this, La Perdrera - and enthused in a way I've not felt in many places. As for the taste of another age - well, there are all these Perpendicular and Norman buildings calling out for restoration and upkeep, all over England, and we don't tend to disparage their even older style, do we? And as for the method of designing these wonderful structures - the hanging bags of lead shot suspended over mirrors that you can see here - this left me gobsmacked.
I'm glad that, even in this rational age, we're still a bit crazy,