The Suitcase Lady


May 25, 2010, 10:52 pm

“If I said, ‘You’re looking gaudy today’, what would I mean?”

Many eager young hands in the classroom shot up. No one, however, knew the definition of the word.

“Let me explain it this way,” I said. “If you come to school with plaid pants, a Hawaiian shirt and every piece of jewelry you own, you would be gaudy.”

My purpose was not only to teach a wonderful vocabulary word, but also to begin an art lesson on Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926), the world famous Barcelona architect whose imaginative, flamboyant and lavishly embellished buildings led people to coin the word “gaudy”.

Gaudi’s style was unique and has put Barcelona on the map as an architectural wonderland. At the Casa Batllo, Gaudi designed the roof to look like the back of a dragon. He covered the facade of the house with a mosaic of ceramic pieces and crystal. Casa Milà or La Pedrera is a gigantic apartment building with undulating walls like a mammoth snake weaving around an entire city block. Gaudi’s design for Park Güell is filled with magical walkways, pavilions, serpentine benches and seductive spaces. His masterpiece is Sagrada Familia, a soaring Cathedral whose exterior walls are dripping with carvings of birds, plants, animals and religious scenes. This amazing building was begun in 1884 and is not yet complete. Swarms of craftsmen work daily in the scaffolded interior.

The children loved Gaudi’s exotic, colorful architecture. Their assignment was to draw a gaudy house and decorate it with mosaics as Gaudi often did. Every class, kindergarten to fourth grade, was encouraged to let imagination run rampant.

I came back several weeks later to see the finished artwork. I was amazed. Here is a sampling of the children’s work… every piece is gloriously gaudy. I’ve included a few real Gaudis, too.

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