Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Two G's

As most of you probably know, I’m no longer in Turkey but I still have much to tell you before I move on to sharing my current situation with you. While we were in Spain last month, I insisted on taking my bipedal assistants (and the female bipedal's mother) to Barcelona for a few days. It’s unbelievable that we lived in Spain for over a year and never made it to the semi-autonomous region of Catalonia, but life with the bipedals seldom makes sense to me.

Bearing in mind (bear!) that there’s tons of stuff I can talk about – artistically, Barcelona was the stomping grounds of Picasso, Miró and Dalí - I think I’ll limit today’s post to Gaudí, Catalonia’s most famous son. Born Antoni Plàcid Guillem Gaudí i Cornet in 1852 (he was a Cancer if you’re into that – I’m a Capricorn), he became one of the most original architects in the history of – well - architects.

Gaudí was a sickly child, and he spent most of his time travelling out of doors on a donkey and communing with nature. His love of the outdoors would ultimately influence his work as an architect and a designer. I don’t know if he met any bears at all and, to be honest, I don’t remember seeing any bears in his work – that should be a study UNESCO could fund. I should make some calls.

Gaudí survived his childhood fevers and went on to study architecture. He was a bit of a dandy and wore only the most fashionable clothes - although he refused to wear new shoes and got his brother to break them in for him. Ooooh - tight shoes! - as a former international fashion model, I spent a lot of time on the world's catwalks and I know exactly where he's coming from.

Anyway, when he graduated it was said “Who knows if we have given this diploma to a nut or to a genius. Time will tell.” Time did tell: although he began his work in the Gothic style but it wasn’t too long before he had developed his distinctive, almost fairy-tale style which featured fantastic creatures, watery-themes, organic curves and mosaics. (Still not sure about the bears though.) He designed everything from lamp posts to houses to factories and parks, to churches and religious colleges.

In the early days though, his work was severely ridiculed (apparently writer George Orwell despised his designs - I don't know if Gaudí liked Orwell's books) but he eventually managed to secure a wealthy and influential patron, Eusebi Güell, and the rest (as they say) is history.

A vegetarian (like me!) and strong supporter of Catalan sovereignty – Catalan culture and language being unique from the rest of Spain's - he was also a big-c Catholic, and after a while he only worked on religious commissions (probably why I didn’t see any bears – are there bears in the Bible?).

He’s probably best known for the Sagrada Família – Barcelona’s monumental cathedral dedicated to the Holy Family, which has been under construction since 1882. Gaudí dedicated 15 years of his life to it and he didn't have an easy time of it. While working on it, several of his friends and family members started to die off, and at the same time, Barcelona began to suffer economically. Construction slowed down on the church, and then his patron died. Poor Gaudí. He became a recluse and even began sleeping in the Sagrada Família’s crypt. I don’t think living in a subterranean crypt will help keep your spirits up.

In 1926, fate dealt Gaudí another nasty hand: a street car ran him over while he was crossing the street. I think he was deep in thought. Because of his appearance - he looked like a street person – no one recognized him and no one wanted to help him. Poor Gaudí. Finally someone brought him to a pauper’s hospital where he stayed until frantic friends managed to track him down. They tried to bring him to a better hospital but he insisted on staying where he was, among the city’s poor. He died three days later and was buried in the Sagrada Família which, I think, he would have wanted. Half of Barcelona dressed in black to honour his passing.

Later, police charged those taxi drivers who had refused to bring him to hospital because of his appearance and because he had had no money in his pockets. Good for them! (- the police, not the taxi drivers.)

Twelve years later, during the Spanish Civil War, anarchists destroyed the only copy of Gaudí’s blueprints for the Sagrada, so it’s been really hard for architects to continue as Gaudí had intended. Nonetheless, 2026 has been slated as the year the cathedral will finally be finished - which just happens to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death. Finished or not, millions of people (and at least one bear) visit the church every year.

I am, by nature, a very empathetic bear (being a freelance Goodwill Ambassador helps), and I have to wonder if Gaudí led a very happy life. I think behind all those whimsical dragons, there was a very sad man. He certainly had a reputation for having a foul temper (good thing he didn't have to break in his own shoes!). I just can't help thinking that a few bears here and there - even electric purple mosaic-ed bears - might have made him a happier man.


Anonymous said...

Hi G.B.
Now you are living in another part of the world. Lucky you. Think of all the experiences you have had.
That turtle looks like he is ready to gobble you up.

Grey Bear said...

I'm not sure if turtles are vegetarians, but I'm certain that they don't eat bears!