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Barcelona Spain Guide

Antonio Gaudi

One of Spain’s most internationally recognized architects, Antonio Gaudi has left his mark throughout Barcelona and Catalonia. His whimsical vision and imaginative designs have brought a bit of magic to this historic region. Gaudi´s culmination of traditional elements with fanciful ornamentation and brilliant technical solutions paved the way for future architects to step outside the box.

Born in Reus, Catalonia in 1852, Gaudi was the first in over four generations to leave the family tradition of metal working. As a child, Antonio never excelled in school. He suffered from arthritis, which kept his attendance low, and preferred to spend his time observing plants and animals, as well as studying forms in nature, which would eventually be so prominent in his designs. It was also during his early years studying with the Escolapius Fathers that Gaudi recognized the “value of the divine history of the salvation of man through Christ incarnate, given to the world by the Virgin Mary.” He later incorporated such beliefs into his greatest work, The Sagrada Familia.

Around 1870 Gaudi moved to Barcelona to study architecture at the Provincial School of Architecture. His grades were again less than superior. However, the young student did earn special recognition in the areas of Trial Drawings and Projects, which allowed him to put his outlandish ideas to use. His professor proclaimed that what had been produced in these two courses was either the work of an insane man or a genius. In 1878 Antoni Gaudi was one of only four students to be granted the title of Architect by the school´s director.

At a time of cultural and political renaissance in Europe, Gaudi looked to many sources of inspiration for his work. Medieval books, Gothic art, Oriental structures, the Art Nouveau movement, and, of course, the glory of nature, strongly influenced his designs. His deep love of music, as well as his interest in writers such as John Ruskin, who said that “ornament is the origin of architecture,” also played a roll in the development of Gaudi´s unmistakable style.
After graduating, Gaudi found comfort in the flourishing city life of turn-of-the century 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, 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.

Gaudi’s works in Barcelona:

• Casa Vicens
Sagrada Familia
• Palau Guell
• Colegio Teresano
• Casa Calvet
• Colonia Guell
• Bellesguard
Park Guell
• Casa Batllo
• Casa Mila



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