Antoní Gaudi (1852 – 1926) was a leading exponent of modern art. With his sensational architecture, he was one of the most important architects and artists of 19th century Spain. However, his works, which come from the Catalan Art Nouveau era, cannot be assigned to an era due to their particularity.
Today almost everyone knows about Gaudí’s famous buildings: they are massive, irregular, organic, imaginative, artistic and fluid. The Sagrada Familia is probably the architect’s most famous building, undisputed and unfinished. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005, it is still one of the most famous places in Europe. Almost 100 years after the anniversary of his death, Gaudi is still as present as when he was alive.
The childhood and studies of Antoni Gaudí
Born in Catalonia on June 25, 1852, Antoni Gaudí was initiated into the arts and crafts at an early age. He came from a family of boilers. His father’s training in manufacturing may have inspired him to decide to study architecture. He later admitted that he learned from his father to think and act in three dimensions.
During his student days, Gaudí was already working as a draftsman for several construction companies in Barcelona. Although his achievements were only mediocre, some works gave an idea of the genius in him. When Gaudí graduated, the director commented: “I wonder if we gave the title to a madman or a genius – only time will tell.”
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Gaudí’s first commissions
After his studies, Gaudí started with smaller projects. The city of Barcelona commissioned the young architect to design public lampposts. He was still quite new, because the electrification had just begun. This project helped him to present his artistic work to the public and to draw attention to himself. You can still see the lampposts of Plaça Reial today.
Casa Vicens in Barcelona
Antoni Gaudí’s first major project was the Casa Vicens in Barcelona. The house was built between 1883 and 1885 – a summer residence commissioned by stockbroker Manel Vicens i Montaner. The decorative building is in the Mudejar style, also known as Moorish architecture.
The mixed form of arabesque and Spanish elements is particularly striking and characteristic of the style. The turrets on the roof, the numerous ornaments and the artistic design of the tiles on the facade demonstrate this above all. Gaudí has been addicted to this artful oriental style all his life. From this he developed his own unique signature, which allowed him to carry out further projects.
One of his most important sponsors was Eusebi Güell. A wealthy Catalan industrialist and upper middle class whom Gaudí met in 1878. This meeting was the beginning of a professional relationship and a long-term friendship that allowed the architect to create unique structures and build good relationships.
Designed at the request of Eusebi Güell, the park on Carmel Hill in Barcelona was built between 1900 and 1914. By this time, Gaudí had already completed several commissions for the patron. This park was originally designed as a luxury residential park modeled after an English garden city. 60 villas were to be built for the wealthy of the city. However, the interest was not particularly great. The distance from the city was too great and the routes too complicated. In the end, only two buildings were completed. The realization of a life in harmony with nature for wealthy citizens could not be achieved.
All the better for Gaudí, because now the unconventional architect could devote himself entirely to his almost maniacal hobby. The architect has interpreted the residential park on the hill as a kaleidoscopic garden. An almost fairytale-like paradise inspired by nature and perfected by the hands of Gaudí. The park was designed in Gaudí’s naturalistic phase.
“The architect of the future is based on the imitation of nature, since this is the most rational, lasting and economical of all methods.”
Nature played an essential role for Gaudí in his project. Organic forms and natural materials run like a red thread through the park, designed with many plants. Gigantic caves, sloping arches and a hall with 100 columns supporting a panoramic terrace are the central elements of the fairytale park. Much is decorated with fascinating glass and quarry stone mosaics.
Casa Batlló – the house of bones
In 1904 he receives another commission which will prove to be one of his most graphic objects. Josep Batlló, a wealthy textile industrialist, commissioned Gaudí to design a new house to replace an existing building in central Barcelona. There were no specifics when designing the house. Thus Gaudí was able to devote himself completely to the creative power of him.
Casa Batlló is unique. The facade is inspired by the irregularities of nature and is decorated with small colored shards that imitate the movement of water. Very impressive are the bone-shaped columns that adorn the lower facades of the windows. The shimmering roof and tower in the shape of scales are emblematic and resemble a lizard or a dragon. Many compare him to Saint George, the patron saint of Catalonia, who fights a dragon.
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Sagrada Familia – The last work of Gaudí
The basilica with the many towers was originally designed in the neo-Gothic style. However, when Gaudí took over the design after a year, the style changed: he transformed the church into a monumental building with a thousand facets. In 1914, after a series of misfortunes, Gaudí decided to live on the construction site. The architect lived very secluded and in modest conditions until his death.
“My great friends are dead; I have no family, no customers, no assets, nothing. So I can dedicate myself completely to the temple (Sagrada Familia). “
Gaudí died a few weeks before his 74th birthday. He was hit by a tram. The building was never completed. A single transept with four towers was built. The eternal construction site will be completed with 18 towers by the 100th anniversary of his death in 2026.
The most important buildings of Gaudí, which are part of the Unesco World Heritage
- Sagrada Familia
- Vicens house
- Casa Batlló
- Park Guell and La Pedrera
- Crypt in the Colonia Güell in Santa Coloma de Cervelló