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A result of successive invasions, Catalan identity has been forged more through history than through ethnical homogeneity. It is not easy to describe the uniqueness of this people without the axiom of a certain ambivalence between sobriety and madness. You will soon learn the Catalan terms seny (good sense) and rauxa (excess). The simple name Gaudi summarises in itself this characteristic mix.
The work of the Catalan artist is a fusion of architectural space and an organic concept of decoration. Admired and controversial in life for the audacity and uniqueness of his innovation, nowadays he enjoys indisputable worldwide fame.
Born in 1852 in Reus, Catalonia, he was accepted to the Provincial School of Architecture of Barcelona, from which he obtained his qualifications as an architect in 1878. His professional life takes place in Barcelona, a city where we can see most of his work.
The situation of Catalan society at the end of the 19th century feeds his overflowing imagination and sets the bases for his work.
At the time, Barcelona was undergoing a period of strong economic and urban development, with the push of the budding industry. At the same time, the city was home to a powerful middle class, which sought to get closer to the European artistic trends of the time. In modernist lounges, discussions revolved around the foreign vanguardist movements, such as the pre-Raphaelites, the Arts & Krafts, the neo-gothic, impressionism and Art Nouveau. Gaudi attended these frequently and developed a special friendship with count Guëll, a great traveller. It was through the latter that Gaudi discovered "Entretiens sur l'architecture" by Viollet-le-Duc, which had a profound influence on him.
Although he paid attention to so many eclectic references, the artist stood out from his contemporary artists by using his own themes and innovative techniques:
- the choice of modest materials (stone, ceramic, tile, forged iron, glass and bricks) is due to both an aesthetical bias and economic concerns.
- Gaudi's work methods showed the scientific aspect of his creations. In order to build leaning pillars or twisted arches that would have been impossible to design using classical methods, he used scale models with sticks and steel wire; he often introduced new shapes (spirals, paraboloides, hyperboloides.); he studied forces and pressure.
- finally, his love for natural elements and vegetation are the most recognisable themes among his work.
Catalan folklore stands out for its restrained nature. The sardana stands out among the traditional dances. It is danced in Catalonia to the music of a small orchestra (the cobla), the tenora and the tiple being the most typical instruments. It is originally from the Empordà region, in the north of Catalonia. Unique to the Mediterranean basin, similar dances were already danced by the Etruscans and in ancient Greece. Standardised by Pep Ventura in the 19th century, it received broad media coverage in the opening ceremony for the Olympic Games in 1992.
The groups of dancers, known as the esbarts, also appear during the fairs and festivals of the numerous villages and towns in Catalonia.
The sardana is more of a social participation event than a choreographed dance. Every Catalan knows how to dance it, even if they hesitate to enter dancing circles. Immersed in the masses, where it must find its own space, this wheel includes people from the outside, until it gets too big and it breaks down into other smaller wheels.
The castells, or castles are a great tradition that consists of building the levels of a human pyramid to the greatest possible height with the greatest stability. Several groups of castellers take part in competitions in which they must prove their balance, team spirit and above all their patience when trying to build nine storey human towers! The rules of the game are simple: first of all making a pinya, a kind of compact mêlée, in which the inhabitants of the village participate, then the castle is built on this base, in consecutive storeys of three or four persons, up to the agulla, the summit, often represented by an child. This impressive show can be seen all over Catalonia during the festes majors (local festivals) and in Barcelona, plaza Catalunya or in the neighbourhood festivities.
Barcelona vibrates to the rhythm of Barça, one of the main football clubs in the peninsula. Fútbol Club Barcelona was founded on 29th November 1899 by a Swiss and several enthusiastic Englishmen. The mythical club of the Catalan capital has a history that is typical of many major European clubs. Founded at the end of the 19th century, it has been home to major stars such as Ronaldo, Ladislao Kubala, or the notorious Diego Maradona (la mano de Dios). Important coaches, often former players, have also left their mark, such as Johan Cruyff or Pepe Samitier. The boys in the blue and red are proud to have won the three main European trophies: the UEFA cup, the Cup-winner's Cup and the Champion's Cup. In 1999, the club celebrated its 100 years in the Camp Nou, the second largest stadium in Europe after Moscow stadium. In the same year, it won the national championship for the 16th time, against its eternal rival, Real Madrid. The harsh rivalry between Barça and Real Madrid and with Espanyol is an outer sign of a deeper competition between Catalonia and the central power in Madrid.
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