For the jet lagged journalists and designers on the media tour for Cevisama 2013, the light schedule of the first day was a relief. The trip, organized by Tile of Spain, kicked off on Feb. 3 in Barcelona, Spain, with the ultimate destination of Valencia for its participants.
The day’s main event was an architectural tour dubbed “A Tale of Two Parks,” given by Architect Tours’ guide Francesc Albardaner. Francesc, a Catalan architect, walked us through the city’s Güell Park and Park de la Diagonal Mar.
Güell Park was planned by Gaudi in the early 20th century as a housing development by his longtime patron Count Eusebi Güell. Now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the site was intended to give Barcelona residents an opportunity to live in an environment alongside trees and greenery. However, the planned 60-lot development never took off: Only two sites were developed. Gaudi and his father eventually bought and moved into one of the houses, a model home that never attracted other buyers.
Now a municipal garden, the park has become a tourist attraction and celebration of Gaudi’s architectural and design abilities. Structurally, Gaudi demonstrated mastery of Catalan vaulting. Columns supporting the viaducts covering pedestrian pathways are tilted to correspond with the angle of thrust generated by the structural loads carried through the columns to the earth. By doing so, Gaudi ensured that the stone masonry construction would only carry forces in compression, masonry’s forte. Catalan vaulting made its way to America via Rafael Guastavino (disclosure: John Ochsendorf, organizer of the traveling Guastavino exhibition, was my graduate thesis adviser) and is used today by many architects, including Santiago Calatrava.
Güell Park also exemplifies Gaudi’s use of trecandis, a form of mosaic construction that employs broken ceramic pieces. The colorful shards of tile and glass are then reassembled in an abstracted form as a multidimensional mosaic surface finish. The serpentine bench encircling the central terrace over the park’s main entrance showcases trecandis in its colorful splendor and curvaceous form. Its glazed ceramic tiles, which were deteriorating due to weather and freeze-thaw, were recently restored by Antoni Cumella, of local tile manufacturer Ceramica Cumella.