Antoni Gaudí (Reus, June 25, 1852 - Barcelona, June 10, 1926) is the most famous Catalan architect and one of the leading figures of Modernism worldwide.
He graduated as an architect in 1978 and practiced his profession from Barcelona. The city’s burgeoning middle class, developmental urban planning and social and cultural momentum allowed him to find the patronage needed to carry out his fantastic and imaginative ideas.
With Viollet-le-Duc and Ruskin as his main influences, Gaudí’s art is part of the Modernist style. However, as it happens with many geniuses, his creativity transgressed the limits of any trend and many of his works are unclassifiable.
One of the highlights of Gaudí as an architect is that he saw each work as a whole and thus worked in both the outside and the inside. He was a pioneer in fully harmonizing and integrating ornamental aspects in each building to create a fuller and richer work. He not only designed the façade or the courts, but also the decoration, the interior layout and furnishings. This holistic concept led him to work closely together with the builders, artists and craftsmen to ensure that all of them worked in concert and harmony.
The Güell family, leading industrialists and great patrons of the arts at the time, was very important in the life and work ofGaudí. Some of his most outstanding works are among their many commissions: Palau Güell, Park Güell, the crypt at the Güell colony, etc.
Gaudí and his buildings are an object of admiration and study worldwide. And thousands of people visit Barcelona every year for the chance to see the work and legacy of the great architect.
The construction of the monumental expiatory church of the Sagrada Familia [Holy Family] began on 19 March 1882 based on the project by the diocesan architect Francisco de Paula del Villar (1828-1901). At the end of 1883, Gaudí was commissioned to continue the work, a task he pursued until his death in 1926. Since then, different architects have continued the work according to his original idea.
The building is in the centre of Barcelona and, over the years, it has become one of the most universal signs of identity of the city and the country. It is visited by millions of people every year and many more study its architectural and religious content.
It has always been an expiatory church, which means that it has been built from donations from the outset. As Gaudí himself said: "The expiatory church of the Sagrada Familia is made by the people and is reflected in them. It is a work that is in the hands of God and the will of the people”. Work on the church is ongoing, although it may be concluded at some point in the first third of the 21st century.
The Casa Batlló is a key feature in the architecture of Modernist Barcelona. It was commissioned by the textile industrialist Josep Batlló and built by Antoni Gaudí between 1904 and 1906. It forms part of the "Manzana de la Discordia” [Block of Discord], the most famous collection of Modernist buildings on the Passeig de Gràcia, and its spectacular façade has become one of the city’s iconic landmarks. The house, now a museum, is open to the public, both for cultural visits and for celebrating events in its splendid Modernist function rooms.
Popularly known as "La Pedrera” (quarry in Catalan), the Casa Milà was commissioned to Antoni Gaudí by the Milà-Segimón family, textile industrialists. It was built between 1906 and 1910, at 92 Passeig de Gràcia in the Eixample of Barcelona.
In addition to its impressive façade, the most visible feature from the street, the roof of La Pedrera is worth a visit.The chimneys that Gaudí designed for this terrace are most imaginative and fantastic, resulting in a dreamlike landscape.
With this building, Gaudí gave free rein to his personal artistic style and expressed it in its fullness. The structure’s richness of forms and volumes borders on the baroque, as throughout his entire naturalist period, halfway between Expressionism and Modernism. Inspired by organic forms and applying new structural solutions,Gaudí displayed his deep understanding of natural geometry, releasing his creativity and imagination from the rationalist stiffness and the classical premises of prior architecture. Undoubtedly, "La Pedrera" is one of the buildings where Gaudi left us more examples of his genius and how ahead of its time his architectural ideas were.
Since opening to the public in 1987, it has received over 20 million visits (approximately 1million each year), thus becoming one of the ten most visited places in Barcelona.
The Casa Milà was declared a National Historic and Artistic Monument in 1969 and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984.
Wandering through Barcelona you will notice that Catalan Modernist architects often used brightly colored ceramic tiles to decorate their buildings. Antoni Gaudí, however, came up with an unprecedented method: he updated the Roman mosaic technique using tile fragments. This decoration was given the name "trencadís", which in Catalan means "brittle", because of the fragmented effect on the resulting surface.
It was used for the first time in the Güell property, where Gaudí designed an entrance building withsinuous shapes that required breaking the square tiles to cover them. Gaudí liked the result so much that he asked Josep Maria Jujol, one of his assistants, to develop the idea in order to create a new decorative technique. It happened to be so useful, innovative and dramatic that it was adopted by many otherModernist artists.
This new technique gave Gaudí two major advantages when decorating his buildings: he couldrecycle scrap materials from other works (which was very convenient for him) and the ceramic covercould follow his curvy and undulating surfaces without having to use tailor-made tiles.
By cutting decorated tiles into pieces and mixing the fragments of different parts into a newcomposition bearing no relation to their original design, Gaudí achieved unusual and distinctive visual effects. Besides, the random mosaic looked more "natural" and the glazed layer blended with the curved surfaces producing more reflections and brightness as a whole.
The "trencadís" is now a hallmark of Modernist Barcelona and especially of the works of Antoni Gaudí. Even today, some architects use it to decorate their buildings.