Saturday, 21 April 2018

Barcelona: Montjuic

View from the top

When we visited the Sagrada Familia yesterday we noticed a large number of posters for an exhibition about William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement at the Muse Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC). We thought that would make a nice outing for today - and what an amazing one it turned out to be.

We headed off to the Espana metro station and emerged into a different Barcelona to what we had seen so far. A gigantic roundabout was dominated by the imposing site of the Bull Ring. I hate bull fighting as an activity, but the building was quite dramatic. A lift carried people to the roof where they could walk around.

Even more dramatic were the massive towers that straddled the entrance to the road up to Montjuic.

We headed along the Avenida Reina Cristina lined by large, but curiously anonymous, buildings towards MNAC which turned out to be an enormous building high up on Montjuic with all sorts of other structures in between.

As we got closer we spotted a sign to the Mies van der Rohe pavilion and decided to follow it - I remembered reading something about it and adding it to my (long) list of buildings to see some time. But before we got there, there was a new surprise on the other side of the road: the former Casaramona textile factory, designed by the great Modernista architect Puig i Catafalch. It is now an exhibition space.

When we reached the van der Rohe pavilion, we were not disappointed. It is a long low rectangular structure which put us strongly in mind of Mies's wonderful Villa Tugendhat in Brno, in the Czech Republic, two years ago.

The pavilion was built for the 1928 Universal Exposition and demolished in 1930 after the Exposition ended. Here is a photo of the original.

Rather wonderfully, it was rebuilt in 1986. And from time to time artists are allowed to create alterations: for example Ai Weiwei filled the two pools with tea and coffee (why?). This probably explains the mysterious towels hanging up across the main window and round the back.

It is a wonderful building with characteristic use of beautiful and expensive marble (just like Villa Tugendhat).

We climbed up towards the Museum and I was delighted to find an opportunity to photograph one of the innumerable Green Parakeets which we have seen in every park.

We then explored the extensive surrounding area and looked at the Greek Garden and the Botanic one. Here I took a first photo of a beautiful species I had only ever seen once before, the Cleopatra. This is like a Brimstone, but with a vivid orange patch on the upper wing.

I spotted a curious structure over the hill and we amble over to investigate. It turned out to be the wonderful Calatrava Tower, once the symbol of the Barcelona Olympics.

Now, finally, we  went to see the excellent William Morris exhibition. Sadly, no photos were allowed. However, a visit to the roof terrace allowed a few final shots looking back towards the city.

Conditions: hot and sunny.

Distance: 3 or 4 miles.

Rating: 5 stars. Incredible variety and almost wholly unexpected.

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