As I take a pedicab to the center of Barcelona after a visit to the city’s Barceloneta area, Dino, the Romanian driver, is all praise about his neighborhood. “It’s close to the beach, the Parc Ciutadella, the bars. Not like La Rambla; it’s crazy there, especially at night.”
We pass Roy Lichtenstein’s El Cap de Barcelona (Barcelona Head) statue, installed for the Olympics, perched in the middle of a roundabout on the waterfront. Like everything here, the statue is layered with meaning. It is not just a fine example of Lichtenstein’s pop art but a tribute to the great artists of the city; the bright reds, blues and yellows of Miró, the angular lines of Picasso, the tile-work of Gaudí.
This trio helped shape Barcelona’s artistic scene. Miró and Picasso are remembered in two of the city’s most successful galleries and have left their legacy on the streets, too. On La Rambla, I walk over a giant Miró pavement mosaic while the exterior of the College of Architects in the Gothic quarter is adorned by a huge frieze of a sketch drawn by Picasso. But it is Gaudí who left arguably the biggest mark in his outrageous wavy buildings, dotted around the Eixample.
In the 19th century, when the city was expanded in a grid system of wide, elegant boulevards, wealthy patrons gave up-and-coming architects a free rein to design statement houses, resulting in a mish-mash of styles; a merging of nature, art and Catalan symbolism. Gaudí’s Casa Batlló on Passeig de Gracia attracts the biggest crowds. A tribute to St George, its shimmering, blue-tiled roof is the curve of the legendary dragon’s back, the windows its eyes and the bone-like balcony railings the carcasses of its victims.
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