With his rejection of straight lines and symetrical ground plans, Antoni Gaudí opened a new chapter in the architectural history of Barcelona. With their strong colors and glittering facades, it is his highly imaginative designs that still characterize this Spanish port.
Fairytale Castles in the Heart of the City
The son of a coppersmith, Gaudí began his architectural career on a not exactly promising note: he left university with the lowest possible grade, a “pass.” However, private clients above all had confidence in his skill-to such an extent that this unconventional architect was soon inundated with commisions.His sources of inspiration were unusual: he was passion-ate about both medieval Gothic and Moorish architecture, to which he alluded when building the Casa Vicens. This home of a brickyard owner fascinates above all by its wealth of contrasts: little turrets on the roof are reminiscent of the minarets of mosques, and patterns of colorfully glazed tiles cover the entire facade.
The young architect soon found his most important client in the industrialist Eusebi Guell, for whom he first built a palatial residence, adorning its roof with a whole forest of fantastic chimneys. But Guell had greater things in mind; he dreamt of a garden city, whose houses on a steep cliff were to offer a view of the Mediterranean. While Güell’s plan did not find widespread acceptance and only two residential buildings were finally executed, Gaudi tackled his part of the work and transformed a 20-hectare area in the north of Barcelona into a walk-in sculpture. Between pine and palm trees, mosaics of glass and ceramics sparkle on the steps, benches, and houses of Park Güell.
At Home on the Building Site
“The straight line is the line of Man, the curve is the line of God”—this was Gaudi’s fundamental belief. His masterwork, a church known as the Sagrada Familia, was designed entirely according to this principle. When the 31-year-old took over the construction of this church, a crypt was already being built. Gaudi only briefly followed the existing Gothic forms, however. Soon he had found his model for the basic framework: nature itself. With their “branches,” the pillars and supports look like trees. The Sagrada Família, as a church of atonement, was to be built exclusively from donated funds, which the master builder frequently supplied in person.
Finally he realized that this task allowed him no time for further projects, and in 1914 he decided to devote himself exclusively to the church. The builders’ hut became his new home. But when the architect died in 1926 after a tram accident, this “sermon in stone” was still far from completion. Of the three facades, only the eastern one had been begun, not to speak of the bell towers, the tallest of which was to grow to 170 meters. Even today, Gaudi’s masterpiece primarily presents itself as a building site—although this hardly detracts from its overwhelming impact.
Major Works of Antoni Gaudí
Cooperativa Obrera Mataronense (1878–1882) Mataró
El Capricho (1883–1885) Comillas
Casa Vicens (1883–1888) Barcelona
Sagrada Família (1883–1926) Barcelona
Güell Pavilions (1884–1887) Barcelona
Palau Güell (1886–1890) Barcelona
Colegio de las Teresianas (1888–1889) Barcelona
Episcopal Palace of Astorga (1889–1915) Astorga
Casa Botines (1891–1894) León
Bodegas Güell (1895–1897) Sitges
Casa Calvet (1898–1900) Barcelona
Bellesguard (1900–1909) Barcelona
Parc Güell (1900–1914) Barcelona
Casa Batlló (1904–1906) Barcelona
Artigas Gardens (1905–1906) La Pobla de Lillet
Casa Milà (1906–1910) Barcelona
Church of Colònia Güell (1908–1915) Colònia Güell (Santa Coloma de Cervelló)