“What makes a person larger than life?”
This question has been playing at the tip of my tongue, ringing in my ears and echoing around the inner walls of my head, ever since I heard it being asked in a Ted talk about a year ago. I’ve been looking for answers ever since. Yes, answer(s), because I don’t believe there is only one. Little did I know I’d find one of the answers manifesting itself in a cathedral’s façade, of all places.
I was never one to be moved by architecture, despite being a daughter of an architect myself. But there I was gazing at the breathtaking glass-work decorating the Nativity facade of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, completely captivated by the stories of hope, faith, and charity unfolding on every hallway door.
I had often heard that walls can keep secrets, but I had never realized, until then, that buildings are manuscripts and that great architects are storytellers.
Despite its glory, it was not the story of Jesus evoking my innermost emotions. Instead, it was the story of Gaudi — the man who dedicated his life to portraying Jesus in an unprecedented form, that was tugging at my heart strings.
Awestruck, I could feel my eyes fill up with tears as I listened to our tour guide’s narration through the provided headphones:
“Gaudi dedicated his life to working on the Basilica, but his lifetime wasn’t enough to complete it. His project outlived him.”
Gaudi left a piece of his soul in his artwork and I was there amongst hundreds of people from all across the globe, marveling at its beauty.
Later that night, I went to bed reflecting upon perspectives on life and legacy. I got a flashback of a postcard I saw in one of the souvenir shops in the quirky and colorful area surrounding Park Guell — another Gaudi masterpiece. The postcard read as follows:
“Tomorrow we will do beautiful things” — Gaudi.
“What made the artist that had no descendants so certain of tomorrow and of the beauty of his legacy?” I wondered. Could he have imagined that ninety years after his death, an international team of architects, construction workers, and politicians, will still be working to keep his dream alive; compiling his vision of an unfinished masterpiece?
Today, Gaudi is much like a ghost of a maestro leading an orchestra to play the symphony of immortality from afar. He knew that he wouldn’t live to see his finished work. Yet that knowledge didn’t stop him from mastering the details. It didn’t stop him from passionately creating something that was larger than his existence either.
It was then and there that I realized that that’s exactly what made Antoni Gaudi larger than life — his passion for contributing to a beautiful tomorrow, regardless of whether he would live to see it.