Two main ports, two capitals, two cradles of powerful modern art, two centers of official languages, two European cultural references, two amazing cities. It’s very interesting to consider what two cities like Barcelona and Riga share. On one hand, we have the Catalan capital, which has forged a unique identity with its form of modernisme. On the other hand, we have the Latvian capital, which has managed to position itself as “the city of the 1000 faces,” with the world’s largest Art Noveau architectural collection, making its city center a UNESCO world heritage site.
Who better than the Alt Experience team, based in Barcelona and soon heading to Riga as a travel destination, to expose and deepen the relationship and values that the two cities share? We intend to create the bridges that honor these respective values, and to connect the two cities in a fun way. This first part of our coverage features a greater focus on Barcelona, includes interesting facts that overlap with those of Riga, and exposes representative aspects of the city that allow us to relate to, as well as properly prepare for, the central Baltic city.
The process of discovering the essence that connects Barcelona to Riga takes us back to a historic milestone, which began at end of the 19th century and extended into the early 20th century. It was during this time that an artistic movement breaking from more dominant styles and called modernism emerged. It managed to spread across Europe, taking different names depending on the area: Art Nouveau (Belgium and France), Jugendstill (Germany and Nordic countries), Liberty (Italy) or Modern Style (Anglo-Saxon countries). Lines, shapes, and profuse designs inspired by nature, and with the full intention of disrupting classical forms, generated a more liberal view within the world of art and contributed to the modern times that arose from the industrial revolution
Barcelona is a synonym to Modernisme, and is identified as such throughout Catalonia, while Riga is that of Art Noveau. These two cities have embraced the artistic movement in such a unique way that we only need look at the façades surrounding us to quickly recognize its presence. The art reflects such an essence and produces personality. Considering both Riga and Barcelona were historical sites in which modernism emerged, this form of art has helped each to reinforce its identity and values by the creative freedom it has consistently proposed. In Riga’s case, it was historicallya source of optimism that forged nationalism and gave the city strength to finally achieve their independence in 1991 after centuries of foreign occupation. Similarly, in Barcelona it contributed to an important cultural transformation that renewed Catalan values and created a sense of autonomy. This feeling is compounded by the conservation of and identification with their languages: Catalan and Latvian.
Barcelona is now famously known for and explained through its modernism silhouettes. The visionary Catalan artists of this movement sought to create unique façades, shaping a modernism into its more abundant and generous state, in which Antoni Gaudí’s unique vision stands out. The impressive Sagrada Familia, his masterpiece and the most prominent representation of Catalan modernism, is no less than the most visited touristic site in Europe and the fifth in the world. Among Gaudí’s other great works are: Parc Güell, Casa Milà and Casa Batlló, just to name a few of the most well-known works. But this movement has impacted the city from its base (its sidewalks, for example), to its façades, to its iconic and decorative elements (like street lamps); the incredibly natural, asymmetric inspiration of modernism stands out in each.
Something is very clear to us: modernism has fused with Barcelona and both have become immortal with time.
Next stop: Riga!
Translated by: Kirstin Meyerhoeffer, Julio Arreaza