Known for his eccentric modernism and avant garde approach to design, Antoni Gaudi is perhaps one of the most well known architects of the 20th century. It’s a testament to his visionary genius that the buildings he designed remain in the top ten most visited attractions of Barcelona — and even Europe. Though his distinctive style has influenced many since, none have come close to matching the surrealist awe of his work. Keep reading to discover more.
Spotlight on Antoni Gaudi
Gaudi was born on June 25 1852 in provincial Catalonia on the coast of Spain. The son of a coppersmith, Gaudi took to architecture at a young age. He ultimately went on to study the craft in Barcelona.
After a brief stint in military service, Gaudi graduated from the Barcelona Architecture School in 1878. Upon handing Gaudi his degree, the Director of the school reportedly remarked “we have given this academic title either to a fool or a genius.”
Gaudi’s first works include the lamposts found in Barcelona’s Plaça Reial, as well as the iconic Art Nouveau commission, Casa Vicens. Shortly after graduation, Gaudi showcased his talents at the Paris World’s Fair of 1878 on behalf of glove manufacturer Comella. From there, commissions came pouring in, sealing Gaudi’s reputation as one of Barcelona’s most exciting young architects to watch.
Notable works by Gaudi include the Güell Estate and Güell Palace. In 1883, the architect received the commission that would come to define his career — the Sagrada Familia. Although Gaudi did not live to see it finished, the church remains the most famous work of his career.
While Gaudi initially followed in the artistic vein of his Victorian predecessors, it wasn’t long before the architect came to hone his own unique style that was inspired variously by nature, Moorish Orientalism and Gothic revival. He is known as one of greatest figures in Catalan modernism, though his later work went on to transcend the mainstream iteration of this style. Keep reading for some of the key defining features of Gaudi’s work.
Gaudi’s early work exhibits a distinctly oriental flavor by way of Moorish inspired features. Think intricately patterned brick or stone details, decorative ceramic tiles, and floral or reptilian metalwork.
A recurring theme in Gaudi’s work is his love of geometric form. Inspired by his studies of the geometric aesthetics of nature, Gaudi sought to adapt the language of geometry to the structural forms of his architecture. His work regularly included catenary arches, hyperbolic paraboloids, hyperboloids and helicoids, contributing to the otherworldly surrealism of his creations.
Though Gaudi believed the Gothic Revival aesthetic to be “imperfect”, the popular 19th century building style was nonetheless still a notable influence on his work. Think grand turreted facades with cusped arches, or sloping buttresses made from stone and brick.
Notable works influenced by this style include Casa Botines in Leon and the Episcopal Palace of Astorga.
Gaudi became deeply religious in his later years, and ultimately dedicated the final decade of his life exclusively to the Sagrada Familia project. On June 10th 1925, Gaudi was sadly hit by streetcar, and later died from his injuries.
There’s hardly a street in Barcelona that’s untouched by Gaudi’s work, such was the prominence of the architect in Catalonia’s cosmopolitan capital. Style-wise, Gaudi’s aesthetic is widely revered for how wholly unique it is. Even now, over 100 years later, no other architect has come close to matching his range of form, texture and expression, confirming Gaudi’s position as one of the most celebrated creative figures of the 20th century.
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