La Sagrada Familia: Barcelona, Spain
I stepped off the crowded blue line train at the stop labeled Sagrada Familia and followed the crowd down the street until the massive monument came rising up before me. It was unbelievably intricate, decorated with carvings of angels and men, scenes of nature, symbols, and stories, and I felt dwarfed by the towers that seemed to stretch all the way to heaven. As if it were not already grand enough, the cathedral has been under construction for over 100 years and yet is still not finished, and it will not be until the full potential of Gaudi’s lofty vision is realized. On the inside, I found myself enthralled by the disorienting nature of Gaudi’s designs, where white flowers seemed to stem from the ceiling, and the hues of the stain glass blended in with the sunlight streaming in. Gaudi’s modernistic style, invented in a time when industrialization was suffocating the city, was meant to emphasize themes of nature and beauty, patterns and bright colors to offset the grey factories and thick smog of the era. Today it seems to stand as an emblem of Barcelona, representing the distinctive character of the city. Although reviews from visitors are mixed, some complaining that the design was gaudy and overwhelming, to me, the building was enchanting—unparalleled by any other architecture I had ever seen.