Who Was He, and Why Is He Important? – ARTnews.com
With his extravagant, shapeshifting structures that drew on a variety of sources, from the Arts and Crafts movement of the 19th century to Islamic and Asian architecture to traditional Catalan forms and beyond, Antoni Gaudí became one of the most famous architects of the first half of the 20th-century. He remains a pioneering figure of Art Nouveau and modernisme, or Catalan Modernism. Gaudí is best known for his intricate structures throughout Barcelona, with the storied Basílica de la Sagrada Família having become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe in the last century. The following guide traces Gaudí’s rise to prominence in the Spanish city, highlighting some of his most famous contributions to its landscape.
Gaudí early interest in nature influenced his architecture.
Born in 1852 in the Catalonian city of Reus, Gaudí drew inspiration early on from his family’s boiler-making business. As a working architect, Gaudí later said that he had “that ability to feel, to see the space because I am the son of a boilermaker. The boilermaker is a man who makes a volume out of a surface; he sees the space before he begins working.” Suffering from health problems as a child, Gaudí spent extended periods at a summer home in the Spanish town of Riudoms, where he spent much of his time observing and studying the natural world. Experiences of this kind are believed to have shaped his architectural style, potentially laying the groundwork for his structures’ biomorphic forms.
Gaudí’s career in Barcelona began when he was a young adult.
The architect graduated from Barcelona’s School of Architecture in 1878. At the time, the institution’s director, Elies Rogent, famously said, “I do not know if we have awarded this degree to a madman or to a genius; only time will tell.” That same year, he designed a display case for a Barcelona glove shop owned by Esteve Comella, and the piece was subsequently shown at the World’s Fair in Paris. Gaudí’s first commission from the Barcelona City Council came in 1879, when he designed public lampposts that remain installed in the city’s Plaça Reial and Pla del Palau today.
Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Vicens in Barcelona.
Lucas Vallecillos / VWPics via AP Images
His mark on the city grew in the 1880s as he refined his distinctive style.
Gaudí’s first residential project was the construction of Casa Vicens, which was built between 1883 and 1885. The structure was commissioned by the financier Manuel Vicens i Montaner and meant to serve as a summer home for his family. Situated in Barcelona’s Gràcia neighborhood on Carrer de les Carolines, Casa Vicens features bright red accents, mesmerizing arrangements of checkered tiles, and slender minarets extending above its roof. During this period, Gaudí designed another summer home in the northern town of Comillas for Máximo Díaz de Quijano, who was the brother-in-law of the marquis of Comillas. The villa, called El Capricho, features a striking red and green tower, an ornate portico, and rounded walls. In this decade, Gaudí also received his first commission from the Barcelona entrepreneur Eusebi Güell, who would become a noted patron of the architect’s work.
Inside the Sagrada Família in Barcelona.
Europa Press via AP
Gaudí started working on the Basílica de la Sagrada Família in 1883.
Gaudí took on his most famous project, the Basílica de la Sagrada Família in Barcelona, in 1883, one year after the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar had made an initial proposal for the structure. Gaudí strayed from that neo-Gothic plan for the cathedral, which was scrapped due to financial concerns relating to materials and production, and opted for a more unconventional design. When Gaudi died, just one part of the cathedral—the church’s bell tower dedicated to the apostle Barnabas—was completed. Now one of Spain’s most-visited attractions, the Sagrada Família’s construction remains incomplete, and officials announced in 2020 that it is expected to be finished in 2026, which will be the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death. The Sagrada Família, whose iconic exterior is marked by a cluster of intricate spires and highly detailed sculptural depictions of the life of Jesus Christ, features 56 columns branching into a ceiling full of kaleidoscopic shapes and stained glass windows in electric blue, green, red, and orange hues. These otherworldly, phantasmagoric elements stand in stark contrast to the subtler and less showy look of many cathedrals in Europe.
The main entrance to Park Güell in Barcelona.
Hal Beral / VWPics via AP Images
In the early 1900s, Gaudí executed some of his best-known structures around Barcelona.
Most of Gaudí’s most famous structures were built in the early 20th-century. Among the projects from those years are the sprawling Park Güell, which was completed between 1900 and 1914 and contains sculptures, architectural elements, and gardens; the Casa Batlló, a building that was once residential and now features skeletal-like details on its facade; and the undulating apartment building Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera, which was the last residence designed by Gaudí and still houses tenants today. Central to all three of those structures are elements situated on different levels. In the cases of Casa Batlló and La Pedrera, walkable roofs offer visitors entirely new experiences of the structures, while at Park Güell, features peaks and outlooks that provide viewers with new perspectives of the public park and city beyond. In 1910, an exhibition dedicated to Gaudi’s work was presented by the Société des Beaux-Arts in Paris, with photographs, models, and plans of his structures on view. A year later he showed many of the same pieces at the First National Architecture Salon in Madrid.
The facade of Casa Milà (La Pedrera) in Barcelona.
CTK via AP Images
Gaudí met an untimely death, but his mark on art history and modern architecture has become indelible.
The architect was killed after being hit by a tram in 1926, and he was buried in the crypt of the Sagrada Família following a funeral that drew huge crowds in Barcelona. Seven of his structures—Park Güell, Palacio Güell, Casa Mila, Casa Vicens, the Nativity façade and crypt of La Sagrada Família, Casa Batlló, and the crypt in Colonia Güell—are designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites, and his idiosyncratic, madcap style pushed the boundaries of 20th-century architectural conventions.
Antoni Gaudi – Famous Spanish Architects
Antoni Gaudí, a Catalan architect, has become internationally recognized as one of the most prodigious experts in architecture, as well as the one of the top exponents of modernism.
Hard To Classify
His exceptional ground-breaking genius made him the inventor of a unique and personal architectural language that defies classification. The work of Gaudí is remarkable for its range of forms, textures, polychromy and for the free, expressive way in which these elements of his art seem to be composed.
The complex geometries of a Gaudí building so coincide with its architectural structure that the whole, including its surface, gives the appearance of being a natural object in complete conformity with nature’s laws.
Such a sense of total unity also informed the life of Gaudí: his personal and professional lives were one, and he collected comments about the art of building are essentially aphorisms about the art of living.
He was totally dedicated to architecture, which for him was a totality of many arts.
Here’s a good and quick intro video to some of Gaudí’s work in Barcelona. From this, you will surely see what makes him so special and one of the most famous Spanish architects ever.
Antoni Gaudí I Cornet was born on June, 25, 1852, in Reus, provincial Catalonia on the Mediterranean coast of Spain, according to some biographers, although other claim that he was born in Riudoms, a small village near Reus, where the Gaudí family spent their summers.
He came from a family of boilermakers; due to this fact, a young Gaudí acquired a special skill for working with space and volume, as he helped his grandfather and his father in the family workshop.
His talent for designing spaces and transforming materials grew and prospered until it eventually metamorphosed into a veritable genius for three-dimensional creation.
Showing an early interest in architecture, in 18769/70 he moved to Barcelona, to pursue his academic career in architecture. In that time, Barcelona was Spain’s most modern city, as well as the political and intellectual centre of Catalonia.
His studies have been interrupted by intermittent activities and military service; accordingly, he did not graduate until eight years later. Gaudí was inconsistent student, but he was already showing some evidence of brilliance that opened many traces for him, allowing him to collaborate with some of his professors.
When Gaudí completed his studies at the School of Architecture in 1878, it was clear that the young architect’s ideas were not a mere repetition of things that had already been done up at that time, nor could anybody receive them with indifference.
Having obtained his degree, Gaudí settled down in offices in Calle del Cal in Barcelona. From his office and with a great dedication, he embarked on his architectural legacy, a large part of which is classified as World Heritage.
Towards the middle of 1878, it was a meeting that would lead to one of the most productive friendships, patronage relationships and cooperation that the world has known⎯ the chance caused the artist to cross paths with Eusebi Güell, a man who was a driving force behind Spanish national industry with a highly developed taste for arts.
From that point onwards, their productive cooperation was not merely the relationship between the client and architect; it led to a rapport based on mutual admiration and shared interests, building a friendship that gave Gaudí the opportunity to begin a rich professional career in order to develop all of his artistic aspirations.
Above and beyond his relationship with Güell, Gaudí received many commissions and proposed numerous projects; many of them were realized, but unfortunately, some never made it off paper.
Patterns Of Nature
Antoni Gaudí found the essence and the meaning of architecture by following the very patterns of nature and always respecting its laws. He did not copy the nature, but rather traced its course through a process of cooperation, and in that context he created the most beautiful and effective work through architecture.
On emergence from the Provincial School of Architecture in Barcelona in 1878, he practiced a rather florid Victorianism (that had been evident in his school projects), but very soon he developed a manner of composing by means of unprecedented juxtapositions of geometric masses, the surfaces of which were highly animated with patterned brick or stone, gay ceramic tiles and reptilian or floral metalwork.
The general effect is called Moorish, or Mudéjar, as Spain’s special mixture of Christian and Muslim design. Some of his the most interesting and remarkable examples of Mudéjar style are the Casa Vicens, from1878-80, El Capricho, from 1883-85, and Güell Estate and Güell Palace of the later 1880s, all located in Barcelona, except El Capricho.
He experimented with the dynamic possibilities of historic style: the Gothic in the Episcopal Palace, Astorga, 1887-93, and the Casa de los Botines, León, 1892-1894, and the Baroque in the Casa Calvet at Barcelona, 1898-1904; after 1902, his design elude more conventional stylistic nomenclature.
As A Tree Stands
Gaudí’s buildings became essentially representation of their structure and materials, except for certain overt symbols of nature or religion. In Villa Bell Esguard, 1900-02, and the Güell Park, 1900-14, in Barcelona, and in the Colonia Güell Church, 1898-1915, he arrived in a type of structure that has come to be called equilibrated; a structure designed to stand on its own without internal bracing, external buttressing, just ‘’as a tree stands’’.
Among the primary elements of his system were columns and piers that tilt to transmit diagonal thrusts, and thin-shell, laminated tile vaults that exert very little thrust. Gaudí applied this equilibrated system to two multistoried Barcelona apartment buildings: the Casa Batlló, 1904-06, a renovation incorporated new equilibrated elements, notably façade; and the Casa Milá, 1905-10, the several floors of which are structured like clusters of tile lily pads with steel-beam veins.
As was so often in his practice, he designed the two buildings, in their shapes and surfaces, as metaphors of the mountainous and maritime Catalonia’s character.
As an eccentric architect and as an admired, Gaudí was a significant participant in the Renaixensa, an artistic revival of the arts and crafts combined with a political revival in the form of fervent anti-Castilian ‘’Catalanism’’.
Both movements sought to reinvigorate the way of life in Catalonia that had long been suppressed by the Castilian-dominated and Madrid- centred government in Spain.
The main religious symbol of the Renaixensa in Barcelona was La Sagrada Família, the Church of the Holly Family, a project that was to occupy Gaudí throughout his entire career.
In the early 1883, he was commissioned to build this church, but he did not live enough to see it finished. Working on it, he was increasingly pious; after 1910, he abandoned virtually all other work and even secluded himself on its site and resided in its workshop.
The plans had been drawn up earlier, and construction had already begun, but Gaudí completely changed the design, stamping it with his own distinctive style.
In his drawings and models for the Sagrada Família, Gaudí equilibrated the cathedral-Gothic style beyond recognition into a complexly symbolic forest of helicoidal piers, hyperboloid vaults ad sidewalls; a hyperbolic paraboloid roof that boggle the mind and outdo the bizarre concrete shells built throughout the world in the 1960s by engineers and architects inspired by Antoni Gaudí.
After Gaudí’s death, work continued on the Sagrada Família. In 2010, the uncompleted church was consecrated as a basilica by Pope Benedict XVI.
The magnificence of Antoni Gaudí’s architecture coincided, as the result of a personal decision by the architect, with a progressive withdrawal by the man himself. Gaudí, who in his youth had frequented theatres, concerts and tertulias ( social gatherings), went from being a young dandy with gourmet tastes to neglecting his personal appearance, eating frugally, and distancing himself from social life, while simultaneously devoting himself even more fervently to a mystical and religious sentiment.
Gaudí died on the 10th of June, 1926, after being knocked down by a tram while making his way, as he did every evening to the Sagrada Família from the Church of Sant Felip Neri.
After being struck, he lost consciousness, and nobody suspected that this disheveled 74 old man who was not carrying any identity documents, was the famous architect. He was taken to the Santa Cruz Hospital, where he was later recognized by the priest of the Sagrada Família.
Two days later, Gaudí was buried in that vary church, following a funeral attended by throngs of people; most of the citizens of Barcelona came out to bid a final farewell to the most universal architect that the city had ever known.
Apart from this and a similar, often uncritical, admiration for Gaudí by Surrealist and Abstract Expressionist sculptors and painters, Gaudí’s influence was quite local, represented mainly by a few devotees of his equilibrated structure.
He was ignored during1920s and 1930s when the International Style was dominant architectural mode. By the 1960s, he came to be revered by professionals and laymen alike for the boundless and tenacious imagination that he used to attack each design challenge with which he was presented.
Antonio Gaudí – architect from Barcelona
Sagrada Familia in Barcelona
If you come to Spain, and especially to Barcelona, you will definitely hear the name of the famous Catalan architect Antonio Gaudí. His most global work was the project of the Sagrada Familia – the Temple of the Sagrada Familia, to which he gave more than 40 years. During the life of Gaudi, the temple was not completed, and its construction continues to this day. But this is far from the only Gaudí masterpiece that attracts tourists to Barcelona.
Childhood and youth
Antonio Gaudí was born on June 25, 1852 in the Catalan city of Reus. Antonio was the youngest, fifth child. From childhood, he was distinguished by observation, especially for nature and natural phenomena. Much of what he observed, Gaudi subsequently embodied in his works.
In the 1870s, Gaudí moved to Barcelona, where he graduated from the Provincial School of Architecture. At first, Gaudi worked under the supervision of other architects on various small projects. These were street lamps, benches, fences, stalls, furniture.
Chimneys on the roof of the Palau Güell
The turning point in Gaudí’s life was the World Exhibition of 1878 in Paris. At the exhibition, Gaudi designed a showcase made of wrought iron, wood and glass for one of the participants. This design attracted the attention and impressed the Catalan industrialist Eusebi Güell, who later became the main customer of Gaudí. But they became not only business partners, but also good friends. Güell’s money and Gaudí’s indefatigable imagination allowed the birth of such architectural masterpieces as Palau Güell, Park Güell and many others that have survived to this day.
After the Palau Güell was built, Antoni Gaudí became famous as an outstanding and sought-after Catalan architect, and the most eminent rich people of Barcelona considered it an honor to order a house of unique form and style from him. Casa Mila, Casa Batlló, Casa Vicens, built by Gaudi, are still considered one of the main attractions of Barcelona.
House of Mila
Antonio Gaudí was not married and left no heirs. All of Gaudí’s brothers and sisters died when Antonio was not even 30 years old. The only niece left after the death of her own sister lived with Gaudí and his father in Park Güell, until she also died due to poor health.
Gaudí House Museum in Parc Güell
Gaudí’s last project
In his last days, Gaudí lived in a workshop at the Sagrada Familia, on which he worked for more than 40 years. The death of the architect was accidental – he was hit by a tram. Antonio Gaudí died on June 10, 1926. In the crypt of the unfinished temple, the great architect was buried. Now there is his grave.
But besides the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi left a great artistic legacy in his other works, most of which are in the capital of Catalonia. Seven buildings designed by Antoni Gaudí in or around Barcelona are inscribed on the World Heritage List. These are Park Guell, Palau Guell, Casa Mila, Casa Batllo, Casa Vicens, Sagrada Familia, the crypt in Colonia Guell.
The originality and creativity of his work is still amazing, and the approach to creating sculptures and forms formed the unique style of Gaudí, his individual style.
Gaudí’s contribution is so highly appreciated in society that for many years there have been discussions about his canonization. If Gaudi is canonized, he will become the patron of all architects.
An interesting fact is that since 2013, June 10 (the day of Gaudí’s death) has been celebrated as World Modern Day. After all, the first building in the Art Nouveau style was the Palau Güell, built by Antoni Gaudí.
Return to Barcelona
Gaudí’s Creations – Barcelona Happyinspain Travel Guide
Antonio Gaudí (1852-1926) was a Spanish architect, original, enigmatic artist. He was called the “genius of modernity. ” Hailing from Catalonia, this man may have been the most fantastic architect of all time.
He created such an incredible, phantasmagoric style that it can hardly be attributed even to Art Nouveau. Gaudí is the most brilliant exception to Art Nouveau and, at the same time, essentially one of its brightest exponents. He absorbed the extremely mystical, native to him, “Catalan Gothic” and all the national Spanish styles: Mudéjar, Isabellino, Plateresque, Churrigueresco. Gaudi became the recognized leader of the Spanish architects of the national-romantic trend of Modern, united by the term “Catalan modernism”. It is considered by primitivists, expressionists, surrealists and dadaists. Gaudí worked without design engineers, intuitively like a medieval master craftsman, often improvising on the spot or drawing on the board for his assistants what he wanted to do, and he had to put a lot of effort on the construction site to ensure the implementation of his incredible ideas.
His buildings “grew” organically, like natural forms, they were not built, but “arised”. .. The design imperceptibly turned into a sculptural image, which could immediately become painting, mosaic, color plastic, in order to later grow back into some kind of organ-constructive formation . Gaudi is a typical Catalan master. Its organic architecture is populated with bizarre creatures, figures of people and animals, dotted with flowers and stone trees.
Gaudí creations on map
In Park Güell there are always queues to take a photo overlooking the city. But we will tell you one important secret – you can get into the park without queues and absolutely free of charge until 8 am. Ideal to see the sunrise over Barcelona and then have time to calmly walk before the buses with tourists arrive.
The Sagrada Familia has been under construction for almost 150 years. It is one of the world’s most stunning architectural masterpieces and a must visit for anyone who comes to Barcelona. If Paris is the Eiffel Tower, Rome is the Colosseum, then the symbol of Barcelona is, of course, the Sagrada Familia. After St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, this is the second most visited church in Europe, and when completed in 2026, will become the tallest Christian church in the world. The main tower of Christ, which is just beginning to be built, will be 172 meters high.
Gaudí’s first private project, Casa Vicens, opens to the public. Few people know that it was this house, located in the Gracia district, and not at all La Pedrera or Casa Batlló, that marked the beginning of the successful career of the young architect Antonio Gaudí.
Not all of Gaudí’s creations are known to the general public. For example, even many local residents of Barcelona do not know about the Torre Bellesguard house, …
Palau Güell is one of Antoni Gaudí’s early works in Barcelona.