Gaudi: A Cultural Icon for Tourism

By Marion Caspar

Antoni Gaudí is a legacy for Barcelona, and Barcelona is an art gallery for Gaudí. However, it took one hundred years before the architect was fully appreciated and became an icon, especially for foreign tourists. ‘He is promoted by the city, but other architects are extremely good too.’

As the face of the ‘Catalan Modernism’ art movement, which is a part of the ‘New Art’ movement in Europe, Gaudí built his buildings and his other creations improving the gothic movement with nature, curves, light and asymmetry. A very religious man, all of his creations were really personal and based on what is surrounding us.

The exceptional creativity of Gaudí is recognized worldwide, which is why one of his most famous creations, the Sagrada Familia and seven other of his buildings are on the UNESCO

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World Heritage list. All of his life, he dedicated himself to his art, which was for him the medium to express the will of God.

Gaudí was not the loved child of Barcelona at first, and nowadays, some people despise him. According to Jordi Vera Duran and Erick, two touristic agents, Gaudí wasn’t considered as an artist internationally after Japanese tourists discovered him after the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992. With this huge event, the city opened itself to mass tourism and decided to use Gaudí to attract people.

‘Gaudí is not a cultural symbol because still now a lot despise him; Gaudí is used by the municipality’, says Jordi Vera Duran, historian and tour guide. His colleague Erick agrees: ‘the architect is more a cultural symbol for tourists than for the city and the inhabitants of Barcelona. Gaudí is not the only impressive modern architect but his style is why he is more attractive than the others’.

Definitely, Gaudí has a very personal style, one which combined nature, colors, curves, and

WIndows of La Casa Batllo

light. The first inspiration for Gaudí was nature. The proportions in his creations show a unique balance between tradition and innovation. The capacity and the skills he had to visualize his plans and make 3D-drawings was remarkable: this was Gaudí’s genius.

His buildings attract a huge amount of tourists to Barcelona. What would tourism in the city be without Gaudí? ‘We don’t know. It’s difficult to imagine the tourism of Barcelona without the architect, but it could happen!’ says Vera Duran.

‘Tourist guides sometimes try to make an effort to propose something different to the tourists and show other cultural activities and figures. Usually tourists come to me with the desire to know Gaudí. But after they discover something else, they love it’ reveals Vera Duran.

According to Erick, ‘Barcelona tourism will not be over if Gaudí disappears because most of the tourist come to Barcelona to lay on the beach and enjoy sunbathing; cultural activities are not their first priorities in summer. Otherwise we organize most of our cultural tourist tour in spring and autumn. Tourists definitely love Gaudí  because of his originality, but the architect is really promoted by the city, and other architects like Puig I Cadalfach or Lluis Domenech are extremely good too.’

In fact, tourism without Gaudí is not the end of the tourism in Barcelona. People love the story of the architect, especially Japanese who recognize in him the perfect artisan who refused glory

Sagrada Familia, Passion facade

and money to focus on his projects, especially the Sagrada Familia. Fun fact: it was actually Franscisco de Paula del Villa who was the first architect to work on the Sagrada Familia, but Gaudi was the most important one. He gave the church a new vision of art and religion, highlighted by light, colors and curves.

Tour guide Jordi Vera Duran created with his journalist girlfriend Anna the company Barcelonina. After living in several cities in Europe, they fell in love with Barcelona and started their tourist guide activity. According to Jordi, Gaudí is unique and that’s why people love him.

For Erick, who fell in love too with Barcelona because of its life rhythm, culture and people, settled here to start in 2015 the company to offer a private tour for tourists who want to know the secrets of the Catalan city.

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