Musings from Bahraini entrepreneur, design agency creative director and magazine editor, Wafa Alobaidat
On a recent trip to Barcelona I went to visit Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, his masterpiece of a cathedral that was built almost 200 years ago, with plans for it to finish in 2028. The cathedral was so great, so modern, so ahead of its time that I mesmerized in the genius of this humble architect. I have a tendency to research my subjects of interest and later on I realized I’ve been consumed by Gaudi's work. I organized my days in Barcelona according to area and building, making sure I investigated Casa Mila, Le Pedrera, and of course Guell Park, a 20 acre garden site.
When going up to the Le Pedrera rooftop, an apartment building Gaudi designed for the couple Roser Segimon and Pere Milà, I became emotional on the top. If I had to imagine anything more beautiful than what I experienced, it wouldn't even come close. I also don’t think I have seen anything more beautiful than his labor of love project, the sculptural park Gaudi designed in cooperation with his patron Count Eusebi Güell, fit with perfection and mosaic. I was in awe.
Upon reading a biography about Gaudi, one of the few English books I managed to score at the Picasso museum bookshop, I read that he has only loved once, and was turned down by this woman at an early age. After that he remained celibate dedicating his life to architecture and religion.
This ultimate sacrifice of body and soul to pursue his passion left a collection of visual footprints of himself all over the city. You can be with Gaudi without him being there in physical form. His spirit lived in the spaces he created and you could easily feel his presence.
I guess this brings me to the question of creation vs. sacrifice. How much sacrifice is needed to reach a level of achievement as great as Gaudi’s? This great dedication by Gaudi, even going as far as not having big meals, but munching or snacking through the day to keep him going with no delays is also an indication of sacrifice.
I wonder if we would follow in his footsteps if given the choice. Would we choose to live a life without pleasure other than the pleasure to create and succeed? And more importantly would we endure suffering that has been bestowed on the great minds of builders, artists, thinkers, and poets? And if so, are we willing to make such sacrifice?
We are our legacies, and walking into the Sagrada Familia one wouldn’t know if one has broken their neck by the sheer magnitude of the high ceilings, or broken their mind by processing what all the visual stories Gaudi was telling.
Gaudi has clearly served his purpose with his time on earth, and left his mark. But what am I leaving behind? Especially as we are living in this digital age where our lives have become products of "Likes", "Followers", and emails. Does our digital presence mean anything when compared to the tangible spaces of architects?
We have become so distracted, our attention span lasting no longer than a few minutes – just enough to stream a YouTube video or read an online article – that we are losing the big picture.
What are we all leaving behind?
Wafa Alobaidat writes a bi-monthly column for Khaleejesque and muses on fashion, art, culture and culture shock in the Middle East. Wafa is also the editor of Sketchbook magazine and runs design and PR agency Obai and Hill.