With a few notable exceptions, most chimneys are added to a building as a necessity, rather than as a feature, especially when it comes to the sometimes mundane contemporary buildings thrown up in haste these days.
The same cannot be said of the buildings of Spanish art-deco architect Antoni Gaudi, whose Willy Wonka-esque preoccupation with chimneys caught the imagination of Certainly Wood’s Nic Snell on a recent trip to Barcelona. Here he gives us the low down on these interesting structures.
Antoni Gaudí i Cornet, to give him his full name, was born in 1852 and lived until 1926. He was a Spanish Catalan architect and the best known practitioner of the building style referred to as Catalan Modernism. His works have been called individualised and distinctive, but quirky would perhaps better describe them.
Most of his best known works are located in Barcelona, including his most famous work, the Sagrada Familia. However, it is three of his other earlier buildings that I find fascinating.
Casa Milà, more popularly known as La Pedrera (The Quarry House – a name derived from its appearance), features some amazing chimneys. There are 28 of them in total - all with fantastical designs, but they are practical too. Gaudi designed two vents in each of the twisted chimneys which dramatically improved the draft and the ventilation of the building as some were used not for smoke but as an early from of air conditioning.
Some of the chimneys look remarkably like Roman gladiators, whilst another of them was decorated with glass from empty champagne bottles saved from the building’s inaugural celebrations.
Others feature geometric designs or strange patterns and no two are the same. Visitors are able to wander along the roof of the building to appreciate these works of arts – it’s flat it’s completely safe.
Another building – the Palau Guell – was one of Gaudi’s earliest works and the chimneys on this building are like a landscape from The Wizard of Oz.
They feature primary twists of colour created by carefully designed mosaics as well as strange, tree-like structures. Nevertheless, they are as practical as they are surreal.
Another of Gaudi’s unforgettable chimney-scapes is to be found at Casa Batllo – also located in Barcelona. It boasts a colorfully-tiled, arched roof which has been likened to the back of a dragon, interspersed with Gaudi’s signature curvy chimneys.
Gaudi had a strong belief that, just because something is utilitarian, it can still be beautiful. Such are the popularity of Gaudi’s chimneys they provide the backdrop to regular concerts that are held on the roofs of his buildings in Barcelona.