An architect known as the greatest and main exponent of Catalan Modernism, whose free-flowing works were greatly influenced by nature.
Gaudí was born on the 25th of June in 1852 in Reus, the capital of the region of Baix Camp, an area to the south of Catalonia. He showed an early interest in architecture and went to study in Barcelona — Spain’s most modern city at the time — circa 1870. After his studies were interrupted by military service, Gaudí graduated from the Provincial School of Architecture in 1878.
Upon graduation, Gaudí initially worked in the artistic vein of his Victorian predecessors, but he soon developed his own style composing his works with juxtapositions of geometric masses and animating the surfaces with patterned brick or stone, bright ceramic tiles and floral or reptilian metalwork.
It was precisely a professor of Gaudí, Joan Martorell, who introduced him to Eusebi Güell in 1883, an outstanding figure of the Catalan bourgeoisie, who ended up being his main patron. Thanks to Eusebi he designed works that continued his oriental stage, for example El Capricho (1883-1885), and finished doing some of his most famous works such as Finca Güell and Palau Güell (between 1883 and 1890), later named by Park Güell and the Crypt of Colonia Güell (1900-1914).
Thus continued the prolific career of Gaudí, in which he worked mainly for the Catalan bourgeoisie, which returned from Cuba with money after Spain lost the island in 1898. In this way a wealthy bourgeoisie, with the desire to demonstrate its status, and one of the first generations of architects in the city coincided in time, giving birth to Catalan modernism inspired by, among others, Catholicism and nature. Casa Calvet (1898-1900) is also related to his early period, it’s the most conservative of Gaudí’s works made in Baroque style.
Then there was the Casa Batló (1904-1906), the only 100% modernist work by Gaudí and one of the greatest exponents worldwide, a work inspired by the Mediterranean Sea, made in the fullness of the artist and with total creative freedom. In this case, Gaudí completely reformed the building which, curiously, had also projected another professor of his, Emilio Sala. This period of his career ends with La Pedrera, mostly known as Casa Milá (1906-1912), conceived more as a modern than modernist style, with which Gaudí closed a stage and ended his collaboration with the bourgeoisie due to their disagreement in this work.
Interestingly, the same day that Gaudí met Eusebi, Joan Martorell offered him to continue the work of the Sagrada Familia, a project which before that was directed by one of his professors, Francisco del Villar. Without a doubt, that day changed the life of Antoni Gaudí.
From 1912 until his death in 1926, Gaudí abandoned all his work and focused only on the Sagrada Familia construction, a project he had been working on for 30 years. There, in the temple, he set his proper studio to live in, in one of the most humble neighbourhoods, immersing himself completely in his work and an ascetic life. Thus, this profoundly Catholic man who began his career as the architect of the town and working for the bourgeoisie, ended up becoming what some define as “the architect of God”.
These last seven of his works were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO between 1984 and 2005.
Antoni Gaudí died on June 10, 1926, run over by a tram while on his way, like every evening, towards the Sagrada Familia from the church of Sant Felip Neri. After the coup, he lost consciousness and no one suspected that that undocumented and neglected-looking old man was the famous architect, and he was transferred to the Hospital de la Santa Cruz, where he would later be recognized by the priest of the Sagrada Familia. The burial took place two days later in the Sagrada Familia after a massive funeral: a good part of the people of Barcelona took to the streets to say their last goodbye to Gaudí, the most universal architect the city had ever seen.
Gaudí was a child of delicate health, which is why he was forced to spend long periods resting at Mas de Riudoms, where he spent hours and hours contemplating and retaining the secrets of nature, which he considered his great teacher and transmitter of the higher knowledge because it’s the supreme work of the Creator. Thus, Gaudí found the essence and meaning of architecture in following its same patterns, always respecting its laws. It was not a question of copying it, but of following its course through a cooperative process and, in this context, making its architecture the most beautiful, sustainable and efficient work possible. For all this, Gaudí stated: “Originality consists in returning to the origin.”