HP058: Antoni Gaudi

HP058: Antoni Gaudi

Spanish architect who worked mainly in Barcelona, developing a startling new style that paralleled developments in art nouveau. His most celebrated work is the façade of the Expiatory Church of the Holy Family.

Antoni Gaudí

(b. Reus, Spain 1852; d. Barcelona, Spain 1926)

In 1852, Antoni Gaudí was born in Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain. Although no one knows the exact location of his birthplace, most believe the town was Reus, but a few claim it was Riudoms. Regardless, it´s confirmed that he was baptized the day after his birth in Reus. His parents, Francesc Gaudí Serra and Antonia Cornet Bertran, both came from metalsmith families, with his father´s profession being a coppersmith. Gaudí, the youngest of five children, found himself unable to play with friends his age, due to rheumatism, a non-specific term for medical problems affecting the heart, bones, joints, kidney, skin and lung. Due to the considerable pain, triggered by rheumatism, very rarely was he able to walk on foot. Whenever, he ventured from his home, he was forced to ride a donkey. As a result, he remained close to home, which allowed him substantial free time to examine nature and its design. His exposure to nature at an early age is perceived to have provided the opportunity to hone in on two of his greatest qualities: observation and the analysis of nature. An attentive observer of nature, Gaudí felt attracted to its forms, colours and geometry. Despite his rheumatism, Gaudí did attend school. At a young age, Gaudí entered a nursery school under the instruction of Francesc Berenguer. It´s reported that his imaginative qualities began to manifest themselves. For example, when Berenguer lectured the child on how wings let birds fly, Gaudí observed that chickens do not fly. He deducted that their wings must help them run faster.

When the time came for Gaudí´s formal education, he enrolled in the Collegi de les Escoles Píes de Reus. At this school, he soon became fast friends with Eduard Toda and Josep Ribera. Their intense curiosity of nature most likely inspired them to learn all they could about it. During his time, Gaudí did not make the best of grades. However, he made drastic improvement strides in the area of geometry. At this point, Gaudi´s lifelong intrigue and fascination of geometry was sparked. Its first major effect was obviously his career choice, architecture.

In 1868, Gaudí began his studies at the Escola Superior d´Arquitectura in Barcelona, a college dominated by neo-classical and romantic trends. He designed his first major commission for the Casa Vincens in Barcelona using a Gothic Revival style that set a precedent for his future work. Thus, his first architectural production incorporated a reinterpretation of historical canons with oriental influence and the recovery of medieval events.

In 1873 through 1877, Gaudí was enrolled at Barcelona´s Escuela Tècnica Superior d´Arquitectura as an architecture student. He achieved only mediocre grades, but did well in his “Trial drawings and projects” course. In 1878, after five years of work as an architecture student, he was awarded the title of architect. As he signed Gaudí´s title, Elies Rogent declared, “I have either found a lunatic or a genius.” The newly named architect immediately began to plan and design, as well as maintained an affiliation with the school his entire life.

Throughout Gaudí life, he so passionately upheld a fascination with nature. He studied nature´s angles and curves, as these elements were incorporated them into his designs. This is demonstrations by his utilization of architecture mimicking the way trees and humans grow and stand upright rather than rely on geometric shapes. The hyperboloids and paraboloids he borrowed from nature were easily reinforced by steel rods. This permitted his designs to resemble elements from the environment. Due to his rheumatism, he observed a strict vegetarian diet, used homeopathic drug therapy, underwent water therapy, and hiked regularly. He was able to venture out on long walks, which aided in the suppression of his rheumatism, as well as increased his interaction with nature, its facets and design.

Gaudí was an ardent Catholic and a fervent Catalan nationalist, as he was once arrested for speaking in Catalan in a situation deemed illegal by authorities. Here’s some insight to Catalan:

This is a region of the northeastern part of Spain, which spans the Pyrenees Mountains, France’s southern border to the Mediterranean coastline.

This area upholds a rich history that predates the Greek and Roman days, and today nurtures a well-preserved language and a distinct culture. In fact, there are currently more than eight million people speak Catalan, which is about one-sixth of Spain’s population

The Catalan heritage actually dates as far back as the Paleolithic Era. Later, Iberians and Celts arrived. Greek colonization introduced crops such as grapes and olives, along with the alphabet and metal coinage. The Romans occupied this area for six centuries, forming a strong foundation for the new country

About one-hundred-fifty years ago, Barcelona’s unprecedented wealth forced the city out of its medieval walls, which enabled architects, such as Gaudí, to design buildings that epitomize the virtuosity and the delirium of the times. The opportunities afforded by Catalonia´s socioeconomic and political environments were endless. Catalonians such as Antonio Gaudí often showcased the region´s diverse art techniques in their works. By mimicking nature, such artists symbolically pushed back the province´s ever-increasing industrial society. Gaudí, among others, promoted the Catalan nationalist movement by incorporating elements of Catalan culture in his designs.

Picasso and Miró who have museums dedicated to some of their more important works. Dozens of other museums and art galleries throughout the Barcelona

Numerous doors were opened for him among the bourgeoisie, artists, and intellectuals of the time. The young architect had a reputation for dressing in the latest fashion, and surrounding himself by high society. However, Gaudi never forgot his working-class roots. His first major project as a professional architect was workers´ housing in a factory, the Coopertiva Mataronese, which was intended to improve the workers´ quality of life. Gaudi presented his design at the Paris World Fair in 1878. It was there that he met Eusebi Guell, the man who would become one of the artist’s closest friends and most loyal patrons. In the following years, with rapidly growing interest in his work, Gaudi took on many important projects. Among them was the house built for the wealthy ceramic manufacturer, Manuel Vicens, as well as “El Capricho,” a villa for the brother-in-law of the Marquee of Comillas. Soon after, Gaudi began designing a palace for his good friend Guell (Palau Guell), and then later the two collaborated on Park Guell, which was intended to be a garden city. Gaudi biography is closely related to the Güell family, a family with a huge prestige in industrial and artistic circles at this time in Barcelona.

For this reason, he build for this family the Palau Güell, the Park Güell, the Colonia Güell and other works.

In his later years, he abandoned secular work and devoted his life to Catholicism and his esteemed Catholic Church, Sagrada Familia, which is still under-construction to this day. Soon after he began his commission on the Sagrada Familia, his closest family and friends began to die. As a result, his works slowed to a halt, and his attitude changed. Perhaps one of his closest family members – his niece Rosa Egea – passed away in 1912, only to be followed by a “faithful collaborator, Francesc Berenguer Mestres” two years later. After both tragedies, Barcelona fell on hard times, economically. The construction of La Sagrada Família slowed; the construction of La Colonia Güell ceased altogether. Four years later, Eusebi Güell died. Perhaps it was because of this unfortunate sequence of events that Gaudí changed. He became reluctant to talk with reporters or have his picture taken and solely concentrated on his masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia.

On June 7, 1926, Antoni Gaudí was run over by a tram. Due to his ragged attire and empty pockets, multiple cab drivers sadly refused to pick him up for fear that he would be unable to pay the fare. He was eventually taken to a pauper´s hospital in Barcelona. Nobody recognized the injured artist until his friends found him the next day. When they tried to move him into a nicer hospital, Gaudí refused, reportedly saying “I belong here among the poor.” He died two days later, half of Barcelona mourning his death. It was, perhaps, fitting that he was buried in the midst of his unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Família.

Gaudí´s major works include:

View of the Park Güell, El Carmel, Barcelona.

Here´s background on Gaudí´s Artistic style

Gaudí´s unfinished masterpiece, Sagrada Família

Gaudí´s first works were designed in the style of gothic and traditional Catalan architectural modes, but he soon developed his own distinct sculptural style

French architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, who promoted an evolved form of gothic architecture, proved a major influence on Gaudí. However, interestingly enough, Gaudí surpassed the master architect and contrived highly original designs – irregular and fantastically intricate. Some of his greatest works, most notably La Sagrada Família, have an almost hallucinatory power.

He integrated the following naturalistic elements to his work: parabolic arch, nature´s organic shapes, and the fluidity of water into his architecture.

He observed the forces of gravity and related catenary principles. This is observed through his design through many of his arches upside down by hanging various weights on interconnected strings, using gravity to calculate catenaries for a natural curved arch.

He integrated Catalan style by decorating surfaces with broken tiles.

The architect´s work has been categorized as Art Nouveau architecture, a precursor to modern architecture. Gaudí was the greatest figure of the Art Nouveau movement in Catalonia known as “Modernisme”. But his adoption of biomorphic shapes rather than orthogonal lines put him in an exclusive category. His style was later echoed by that of Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928–2000).

Amazingly, considering the depth of his work and being hailed as a genius, some hypothesize that Gaudí was color blind. As a result, some have concluded that his collaboration with Josep Maria Jujol, an architect twenty seven years his junior whom he acknowledged as a genius in his own right, was integral to the creation of his greatest works. Gaudí´s originality was at first ridiculed by his peers, however as time passed, his work became more famous. He is now revered as one of Catalonia´s best and brightest. In addition, Gaudí´s abandoned plans for a New York skyscraper hotel have influenced the plans for the redesign of New York´s World Trade Center. In 1992, five artists founded La Asociación pro Beatificación de Antonio Gaudí. Also, this secular association has pushed for the Catholic church to declare Gaudí blessed. Gaudí´s life and work inspired The Alan Parsons Project to create the 1987 album Gaudí.

Gaudi´s work recently inspired a shop owner in London to build a shopfront in the style of Casa Batlló.

Gaudi´s culmination of traditional elements with fanciful ornamentation and brilliant technical solutions paved the way for future architects to step outside the box.

Gaudí´s whimsical vision and imaginative designs are inspiring and awe striking. His health adversity allowed him to appreciate nature and become one of the most revered architects, with his work garnering international attention and drawing masses of people annually to the Catalonia region to see first hand the work of a master architect who drifted away from the traditional architectural forms to create unique masterpieces.

Gaudi, however, is most recognized for his work on “La Sagrada Familia,” a twentieth century cathedral in Barcelona. Gaudi took over the project in 1884 after a disagreement between a member of the Temple Council and the original project manager, Fracisco de Paula del Villar (Gaudi’s former professor), over materials. Antonio Gaudi was a mere 31 years of age when he officially gained control over the building. The architect devoted the next forty-two years of his life to its construction, until his sudden death at age 74 in 1926.


Question: Where was Antoni Gaudí born?

Answer: Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain

Links to Artwork Images

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