Just a twenty minute train ride outside of Barcelona is a secret gem of the architecture world; Gaudi’s unfinished church in the small town of Colonia Guell. Commissioned in 1899 by Gaudi’s chief patron Eusebi Guell, the church was to be a thank you for his workers in the small industrial town. Unfortunately funding was cut in 1914 and only the crypt was finished. The crypt is built into the side of a small hill with building materials that match the colour and texture of the surrounding landscape. The design includes a series of of rough-shot pillars, abstract stained glass and catenary arches.
Gaudi’s designing and working methods were both creative and innovative. He would suspend ropes attached with weights or chains from the ceiling. The curves created by gravity became the basis of the catenary arches when inverted. He would then either photograph or place a mirror under the hanging model to see the inverted structure.
The art critic Robert Hughes was the person who first drew my attention to this wonderful place in his documentary about Gaudi. The film is a great precursor but in no way a substitute to actually experiencing these buildings in person.
Barcelona contains many of Gaudi’s most famous works. The humbling scale and imagination of the Sagrada Familia and the sheer delight and whimsy of Park Guell are must sees. A wonderful aspect that separates Colonia Guell with these places is that you don’t have to deal with the long lines and crazy crowds of Barcelona. When we went, we had the place to ourselves for over an hour and only then, did another five people show up. It felt like we had our own personal Gaudi. When you are there, you are amazed that a place this amazing isn’t crawling with people but then again you’re thanking your lucky stars that it isn’t.