With the last few days of summer upon us, we wanted to make the most of the city’s unusually quiet downturn and soak up some off-season culture. Casa Milà, located on Passeig de Gràcia was Gaudi’s last major architectural undertaking before he devoted himself completely to the Sagrada Familia.
In any other year, the undulating terrace would have been swimming in tourists and flashing cameras, but today we find Casa Milà virtually undisturbed, otherworldly and drenched in September sun.
Gaudi invites us into an urban oasis, a dreamlike clearing evoking both nature and fantasy. Abandoning all notions of perfect symmetry, the building’s contours rolling like ocean waves of rippling, undressed stone.
As the fading light of not-quite-day became not-quite-night, we gravitated towards a secluded spot to sip our cava and spoke in hushed tones of how lucky we are to be able to experience Barcelona in such a rare fashion.
Ahead of his time in many ways, Gaudí was a keen recycler, often breaking down old materials, and incorporating them back into his art. He understood that nature is cyclical and that objects which serve one purpose in life, serve another in death.
The iconic buttresses that crowd the skyline, acting as guardians of the house, are a perfect example–whose helmets are decorated with broken shards of opal green glass placed there by Gaudí himself, using champagne bottles left over from the building’s inauguration party.
At each corner, ornate archways serve as frames through which many of the city’s most emblematic landmarks can be viewed, including Gaudís own Sagrada Familia.
“There are no straight lines or sharp corners in nature. Therefore, buildings must have no straight lines or sharp corners.” — Antoni Gaudí
After our time in the sun, we retreat downstairs, making our way through the heart of La Pedrera, its brick arches like the fossilised ribcage of some ancient creature, and out onto the street.
We wander away from inner-city and through the cobbled streets of Barri Gòtic, naturally gravitating towards a new favourite; Bistrot Levante, whose inviting lights warm the dusky Placeta de Manuel Ribé outside where locals have gathered.
Inside we nestle into a quiet corner, our two small tables are soon crowded with bottles of cava and a multitude of dishes from the Middle-Eastern inspired tapas menu–hummus, tzatziki, baba ganoush, labneh, burnt-aubergine, patatas levantes (a commendable take on bravas) and endless rounds of pillowy-soft pita bread.
After a truly divine meal, we spill onto the lamplit streets and mosey through the narrow and winding streets of Barcelona’s old Jewish quarters, paying a visit to the Chursh of Sant Felip Neri, the very Church where in later life, Gaudí would make his daily prayer and confession.
Gaudí’s philosophy in life now lives on immortally through the architectural feat of the Sagrada Familia basilica, a poignant reminder of the intrinsic relationship between nature and the human condition.
“The great book, one that is always open and which you must strive to read, is that of Nature.” — Antoni Gaudí
It’s up to us to make sure the book stays open.