Monday, 10 June 2013

Barcelona - Colegio Santa Teresa

The Collage of the Sisters is one of Gaudí’s lesser known buildings. It is not as lavish as the other of his works but it is still an amazing sight. I wanted to see it because I like the story behind it.

The Collage of the Sisters was built to house a convent for the Congregation of Religions Sisters. It had been started by an unknown architect who for some reason quit his job. The director of the collage asked Gaudí to finish it as he was a great architect and famous for being devout. Gaudí accepted the challenge.

I say challenge for three reasons. Firstly, the foundation of the building was already laid so he couldn’t change that. He therefore only worked on the bits over the ground. Secondly, the order vowed poverty therefore the budget was VERY limited and Gaudí was famous for going over budget on every project he worked on. Thirdly, he loved designing and making the buildings different to everything else. This time he had to come up with a simple design that is so against his nature.

The project was commissioned at ‘low cost’, meaning he only used brick and crushed stone. The story goes that when the director wanted to have a say in the design he famously said to him:
‘Each to his own, Mosen Enrique, I, to build houses, you do masses’.

He also had to argue that brick is not expensive and it will cost the same amount, even if he puts one brick this way and another that way. This was all he could go on and make all the decoration he can come up with. He also used wrought iron that was one of his favourite materials and used the four armed crosses and arches inside the building that are two of his signature decoration elements (see Casa Batlló).

He managed to finish the building and the result is a very austere, very solid but still impressive building. He also designed a chapel and the garden around it but these have already disappeared for various reasons.

After all this history I simply had to see it for myself.

My intercambio session is close to the Collage so I decided to visit it after. Packed up all my gear, charged up batteries and lots of free place on the camera’s memory card… and I couldn’t get in! I couldn’t believe it! This lovely man was standing in the gate (that was open and I could get a glimpse of how amazing the building looks) and did not let me in. ‘It’s a school’ was the only explanation I got. Even though there was not a single child in sight I couldn’t take a photo of the building. I obviously look like a paedophile.

It took me a few minutes to calm down, respect the rules and understand that he’s just doing his job while he was watching all my movements like a hawk. I didn’t give up, however. I went around the whole block to see if I can find a better view. First I could only lift my camera high up to take photos over the high fence.

Then I found what I was looking for: a wall that wasn’t too high. I could finally take some photos. Not much but it’s enough to see the details that gave truth to the story. Even though I couldn’t go inside the building Gaudí’s influence on the building is obvious.

I know I left you a bit disappointed, I feel the same. I found a website however where they have some photos of the inside as well as the outside, take a look

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