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Antoni Gaudí
Article added on March 2, 2005
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The Catalan capital has a rich cultural heritage. A special position is held by the architect Antoni Gaudí y Cornet. His unique Modernisme - the specific Catalan Art Nouveau movement - buildings are the highlights of any Barcelona sightseeing tour.

Born in Reus (Bais Camp, Catalonia) on June 25, 1852 he studied architecture at the Escuela Provincial de Arquitectura de Barcelona. Already before finishing his studies, he collaborated with the architect Josep Fontseré in the Citadella Park project.

In his graduation year, 1878 Antoni Gaudí won the contest to carry out a street lights project for the Plaza Real in Barcelona. Those lights are still working.

From 1883 to 1888, Antoni Gaudí designed the summer house Casa Vicens, located in the district of Gràcia (Carolines 18-24). One of the house's most distinctive features are the blue and white colored tiles of the façade.

The eminent textile manufacturer Count Eusebio Güell was Gaudí's benefactor. From 1884 to 1887, the architect worked on the two pavilions and the big fence of the entrance of the leisure time house of the Güell family, La Finca Güell (av. de Pedralbes 7). At the entrance, he positioned Ladon, the mythological winged dragon beaten by Hercules.

From 1884 to 1887, Antoni Gaudí also created the Palau Güell, the count's Barcelona residence (Nou de la Rambla 3).

From 1888 to 1890, Antoni Gaudí built the educational center Collegi de les Teresianes (Canduxer 95-105). The main door is decorated with the religious order's typical shield, allegedly forged in iron by Gaudí himself.

From 1898 to 1899, Antoni Gaudí designed his only building which adopted Catalan Baroque shapes: Casa Calvet (Casp 48). On the door, the architect symbolized with irony good defeating evil - with a door knocker in the form of a cross hitting a part on the door represented by a bug.

Also in 1898, Antoni Gaudí began constructing the Iglesia de la Colonia Güell in Santa Coloma de Cervelló, which he finished in 1917.

From 1900 to 1909, Antoni Gaudí dedicated himself to the erection of the Torre Bellesguard. Built on the undeveloped site of an ancient royal residence, Torre Bellesguard, which became a very expensive enterprise because the architect integrated the ruins of the mansion of the last king of the Catalan dynasty, Marti I l'Humà (Marti I, the Human).

From 1900 to 1914, Antoni Gaudí built his largest work in Barcelona, the Parc Güell. Inside an English garden is the house-museum where the architect lived from 1906 to 1926 before he moved to the site of the Sagrada Familia. 

Parc Güell was commissioned by Eusebi Güell as a garden city next to his estate, Can Montaner. Of the sixty homes originally planned, only two were built, making the residential development one of Gaudí's failed projects. One of the homes is now the Gaudí House-Museum (Casa Museu Gaudí). The park has over three kilometers of winding paths and many fantastic constructions, viaducts and porticoes in an exuberant vegetation.

Casa Museu Gaudí contains personal mementos, works such as furniture, drawings and sketches by Gaudí as well as works by artists such as Picasso, Mani, Berenguer, Moisés and others. The detached two-story house topped by a smaller third floor with a deck with mosaics (trencadis) as key elements was designed by Francesc Berenguer i Mestres, although the final drawings had to be signed by Gaudí himself, since Berenguer had not yet obtained his architect's degree.

Casa Batlló (Passeig de Gràcia 43), constructed from 1904 to 1906 for the textile industrialist Josep Batlló i Casanovas, is partly a museum, open to the public. It has a tiled roof and a mosaic façade, representing waves in a windless sea. Gaudí achieved the glimmering effect on the front of the house by applying broken fragments of Majorcan glazed ceramic tiles as well as pieces of glass. Natural forms such as waves dominate the interior too. Each and every corner offers an inventive, original detail. Gaudí was not just an architect. He created a Gesamtkunstwerk. Casa Batlló stands in a row with a series of architectonically outstanding houses. It is considered Gaudí's ironic response to the academic forms of neighboring Casa Amattler, built by Josep Puig i Cadafalch. The sinuously curved shapes of the façade as well as the interior make Casa Batlló a forerunner of La Pedrera.

From 1906 to 1912, Antoni Gaudí designed what is considered the most representative work of Modernisme, Casa Milà aka La Pedrera. Situated in Passeig de Gràcia, La Casa Milà was originally conceived as a monument to the Virgin Mary. Because of the events of the so-called Tragic Week (Semana Tragica) in 1909, the proprietor Pere Milà i Camps decided against installing the image of the Virgin Mary on top of the house. The apartment building has three façades integrated into one thanks to the stone façade in the form of waves and the railings of the iron balconies, a mix of geological landscape and abstract sculpture.

The house's ironic nickname, The Stone Quarry (La Pedrera), reflects the fact that differences between the owner and the architect, who changed his project many times, led to years of delay of completion, but also the mockery and criticism of the cartoonists, journalists, artists and politicians of the time, such as the Catalan Santiago Rusiñol and the French statesman Georges Clemenceau, who lacked the necessary understanding for Gaudí's innovative architectonical vision.

Renovated in the 1990s, most apartments of Casa Milà still have their splendid original woodwork, the mouldings and the reliefs of their ceilings. The internal structure of the building, based on a system of columns that replaces traditional load-bearing walls, impresses architects from around the world. The attic is built with parabolic arches of brick, typical for Gaudí's oeuvre.

Don't miss a visit to the "Pedrera Apartment" on the forth floor of Casa Milà. It is a replica of an upper-middle class home of the period between 1909 and 1929. The Gaudí Space in the attic and on the roof deck presents the artist's work in all its diversity. On summer weekends, you can enjoy a drink on the roof terrace, while listening to live music (La Pedrera de nit). The ground floor houses the cultural center Fundació Caixa de Catalunya, which has financed the restoration of the building and is responsible for its maintenance as well as the museum spaces.

Antoni Gaudí's most famous, still unfinished work is the basilica of the Sagrada Família. As early as 1883, he agreed to continue building this gigantic work, commissioned by the bookseller José María Bocabella to Francesc de Paula Villar in 1882.

Bocabella was the founder of the Associació Espiritual de Devots de Sant Josep. It aimed to achieve the triumph of the church - in a period of declining religiosity due to the industrial revolution, scientific progress and social changes.

Villar intended to build a church in the Neo-Gothic style. Because of differences with the Barcelona authorities, he abandoned the project one year later.

The basilica by Antoni Gaudí has a very different spirit. It is a more ambitious project. After finishing the crypt, he designed three monumental façades, of which he only managed to finish the one dedicated to the Nativity. The doorway displays some one hundred species of plants and as many animals. The three doors represent the virtues of Charity, Faith and Hope.

The second façade is devoted to the Passion and features sculptural ensembles by the artist Josep Maria Subirachs. The third and main façade will represent the Glory, with a representation of Death, the Last Judgment, Hell and the Glory.

From 1903 to 1926, in Gaudí's lifetime, the first four towers of the Templo de la Sagrada Família were built. They are all over one hundred meters tall. In total, he projected twelve towers, dominated by the central dome of the nave with a height of 170 meters, crowned by a monumental cross. It will take a few additional decades to complete the temple.

Antoni Gaudí died in Barcelona on June 10, 1926 in a tramway accident.


Sagrada Família. Foto © Sagrada Família.





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