After galavanting around Spain for several days with a tour group, I took an extra couple of days in Barcelona. It is a unique city probably most known architecturally for the Art Nouveau movement that took place there in the late 19th and early 20th century, called Modernisme in Catalan. Aside: It is important to remember while visiting (as I learned) that Barcelona is part of Catalonia – the people there consider themselves to be separate and have been working for some time to seek the right of self-determination from the Spanish government. So Catalan is spoken in Barcelona. /aside
But back to the architecture… the modernisme forms are everywhere – intricate windows, elaborate lampposts, flourishes that echo nature, details that call out this is a different idea freshly executed. Antoni Gaudí is the most famous of these architects, and the next couple posts will focus more closely on his remarkable projects, but Barcelona is full of other modernist touches from other artists and architects. I was struck by how elegant the apartment blocks are all over the city, with their intricate stonework and wrought-iron balconies (and Catalonian independence flags, too).
The city is full of grand plazas, of which Plaza España and Plaza Catalunya are both noteworthy. The industrial plaza near the train station is a more post-modern take on the form with its lighthouse-like structures and crazy sculpture/slide. Artwork is dotted all around the city outside the squares as well.
Barcelona is also a harbor city. It hosted the 1992 Summer Olympics and added quite a bit to the harbor area for the olympic sailing events. The Olympics revitalized that whole section of town, and it is now a quite trendy place to live.