Tour of Modernisme
Discover Catalonia with Thematic Tours – Suggestions for Unforgettable Excursions
If you are interested in culture - be it art and architecture, history, or wine - the environs around L’Hospitalet de lnfant will amaze you! Choose your tour according to the topic that most inspires you and the time you would like to devote to sight-seeing. In the following, we have put together suggestions for a variety of excursions which range from a few hours to half a day to an entire day.
 
Tour of Modernisme

An artistic theme that lends itself to various excursions in the region is Modernisme, the architectural style of the late 19th/ early 20th century, best represented by Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona. Depending on how much time you wish to devote to one visit, explorations of Modernisme may lead you to Barcelona (120 km) or to the nearby Reus (30 km).
 
The term Modernisme refers to a Catalan cultural movement active from roughly 1888 to 1911. The name is a catch-all for a variety of artistic and cultural manifestations, and is often understood as an equivalent to a number of fin-de-siècle art movements, such as Symbolism, Decadence and Art Nouveau / Jugendstil. However, Modernisme was a movement in its own right, and evolved partly as a reaction to established styles, especially Symbolism. Its representatives were deeply individualistic and anti-traditionalist intellectuals who, roughly from 1888 (First International Exposition in Barcelona) to 1911 (death of Joan Maragall) attempted to update Catalan arts and ideas so as to raise Catalan culture to a par with other European cultures. The Modernisme movement was centered around the city of Barcelona, and its best-known exponent in architecture was Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926), while the most influential literary representative was Joan Maragall (1860-1911).
 
Antoni Gaudí (Reus, 25 June 1852 – Barcelona, 10 June 1926)
Gaudí's works are characterized by a highly individual style, and the vast majority of them are situated in the Catalan capital of Barcelona, including his magnum opus, the Sagrada Família. Much of Gaudí's work was marked by the four passions of his life: architecture, nature, religion and his love for Catalonia. Gaudí meticulously researched and planned every detail of his creations, integrating into his architecture a series of crafts, in which he himself was skilled, such as ceramics, stained glass, wrought iron work, and carpentry. He also introduced new techniques in the treatment of the materials, such as his famous trencadís, made of waste ceramic pieces. At the turn of the century, after a few years under the influence of neo-Gothic art and of Orientalism, Gaudí became part of the Modernista movement, which was then at its peak. Gaudí's work, however, transcended mainstream Modernisme, culminating in an organic style inspired by nature. Rarely did Gaudí draw detailed plans of his works but instead preferred to create them as three-dimensional scale models, molding all details as he was conceiving them in his mind. He converted to the Roman Catholic faith during his life, and many religious symbols can be seen in his works, a fact which has led to his nickname "God's Architect".
 
Tour of Modernisme
The Sagrada Família in Barcelona, an icon of Modernisme, by Antoni Gaudí

Gaudí’s work has had widespread international appeal, and his masterpiece, the Sagrada Família, is one of the most freuqently visited monuments in Spain. Between 1984 and 2005 seven of his works were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
 
Gaudí is usually considered the great master of Catalan Modernisme, but his works go beyond any style or classification. They are imaginative works that find their main inspiration in nature. Gaudí studied geometric shapes in nature thoroughly, searching for an idiom for translating them into architectural forms. Some of his greatest inspiration came from places he had visited, such the mountain of Montserrat, the caves of Mallorca, the saltpeter caves in Collbató), the crag of Fra Guerau in the Prades Mountains behind Reus, the Pareis mountain in the north of Mallorca, and Sant Miquel del Fai in Bigues i Riells.
 
Gaudìs’s study of nature led to his characteristic use of ruled geometrical shapes, such as the hyperbolic paraboloid, the hyperboloid, the helicoid, and the cone. Ruled surfaces are shapes generated by a straight line known as the generatrix, as it moves over one or several lines known as directrices. Gaudí found abundant examples of them in nature, for instance in rushes, reeds and bones. He used to say that there is no better structure than the trunk of a tree or a human skeleton, structures which are at the same time functional and aesthetic. Gaudí used them wisely, knowing how to adapt the language of nature to the structural forms of architecture. He assimilated the helicoid form to movement and the hyperboloid to light. These constructional forms are highly suited to the use of cheap materials such as brick. Gaudí frequently used brick laid with mortar in successive layers, as in the traditional Catalan vault.
Tour of Modernisme
Helicoid

 
Tour of Modernisme
Hyperboloid


 
Tour of Modernisme
Paraboloid

 
Another element frequently used by Gaudí is the catenary curve (i.e. the curve assumed by an idealized hanging chain or cable when supported at its ends and acted on only by its own weight). He had studied its use as a mechanical element in the construction of suspension bridges and became the first one to utilize this element in common architecture. With the use of these elements, Gaudí went from plane to spatial geometry, to ruled geometry. 
 

Gaudí's quest for new structural solutions culminated between 1910 and 1920, when he integrated all of his research and experience into his masterpiece, the Sagrada Família.  He conceived this church as if it were the structure of a forest, with a set of tree-like columns divided into various branches to support a structure of intertwined hyperboloid vaults. He inclined the columns so they could put up better with the perpendicular pressures on their section. He also gave them a double turn helicoid shape (right turn and left turn), as in the branches and trunks of trees. This created a structure that is nowadays known as fractal. Together with a modulation of the space that divides it into small, independent and self-supporting units, it creates a structure that perfectly supports the mechanical traction forces without need for buttresses, unlike in the neo-Gothic style.
 
Tour of Modernisme

Gaudí thus achieved a new architectural style that was original, simple, functional and aesthetic. At the same time Gaudí achieved his greatest architectural goal; to perfect and go beyond Gothic style. The hyperboloid vaults have their center where the Gothic had their keystone, and the hyperboloid allows for a hole in this space to let natural light in. In the intersection between the vaults, where Gothic vaults have their ribs, the hyperboloid allows for holes as well, which Gaudí made use of to create the impression of a starry sky.
 
Gaudí complemented this organic vision of architecture with a unique visualization capacity that allowed him to conceive his designs three-dimensionally, unlike the dimensionally flat design of traditional architecture. He used to say that he had acquired this skill as a boy by looking at the drawings his father made of the boilers and stills he produced. For this reason Gaudí always preferred to work with casts and scale models or even improvise on site as the works progressed. Reluctant to draw plans, only on rare occasions did he sketch his works, in fact only when required by official authorities.
 
Gaudí’s position in the history of architecture is that of a great creative genius who—inspired by nature—developed a style of his own that attained great technical perfection as well as a cultivated aesthetic value. His structural innovations resulted to a certain extent from the influence of earlier styles, from Doric to Baroque via Gothic, his main source of inspiration. Gaudí did not connect with the rationalist architectural movements of the 20th century, which were all derived from the sober and functional Bauhaus School. Gaudí himself did not create a school of his own, never taught, nor did he leave behind any written documents. Nonetheless, Gaudí left a deep mark on 20th century architecture: masters like Le Corbusier admired his work, and the works of other architects like Pier Luigi Nervi, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Oscar Niemeyer, Félix Candela, Eduardo Torroja and Santiago Calatrava were inspired by the new style Gaudí had invented. Otto Frei used Gaudi’s forms in the construction of the Munich Olympic Stadium. In Japan, the work of Kenji Imai bears evidence of Gaudi’s influence, as can be seen in the Memorial for the Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan in Nagasaki.