Antoni Gaudí

(1852—1926) Spanish architect

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Antoni Gaudí attracted considerable attention for his highly original and distinctive contributions to architecture in design in late 19th‐ and early 20th‐century Spain. For the most part his original yet often technically sophisticated buildings were located in Barcelona, his artistic career developing alongside the establishment of Catalan identity. His early studies involved philosophy, history, economics, and aesthetics before he went on to study architecture under Gothic Revival architect Juan Martorell at the Escuela Tecnica Superior de Arquitectura. He graduated in 1878 when the region's cultural and political renaissance—the Rainaxença—was at its height. In the same year he presented a project for workers' housing at the Paris Exposition Internationale of 1878, the year in which he also designed lamp‐posts in the Modernismo style in the Plaça Reial in Barcelona. His standing had risen sufficiently to be commissioned to build the Transatlantic Pavilion at the Barcelona World Fair of 1888 where he came under the influence of the modernistas (practitioners of Modernismo), the burgeoning Catalan avant‐garde. Other influences included Viollet‐Le‐Duc, Ruskin, and the Arts and Crafts Movement. Gaudí's first commission of significance was for the Casa Vicens (1883–8) in Barcelona, built for a ceramics industrialist. This striking design involved considerable decorative use of brightly coloured ceramics on both the exterior and interior. The latter was in the Mudejar style, drawing on Arab ornamentation and the decorative styles found in 15th‐century Granada. Of considerable importance to the further development of Gaudí's career was his relationship with the Güell family of industrialists. This led to a number of significant and striking commissions including the Pavellons Güell (1884–7), the Palau Güell (1886–8), and the Park Güell (1901–14). The striking sculptural and decorative quality of the roof of the Palau Güell (which also contained Gaudí furniture) was fashioned from the projecting chimneys and ventilation pipes. He covered them in broken pieces of ceramics (trencadís) that were to become a hallmark of much of his later work. The Parc Güell, never fully finished (and becoming public property in 1923), was a residential garden in Barcelona based on English models exploring the concept of the ‘Garden City’, such as Bedford Park. The Parc Güell contained a number of organically influenced buildings and combined Moorish traditions with flowing forms, especially in the serpentine bench running around the main plaza, colourfully decorated in broken pieces of ceramics. Other commissioned buildings included the Casa Calvet (1898–1904), which also included Gaudí‐designed furniture (including the Calvet chair, originally of 1902, which was reproduced as a heritage classic in the 1970s by B.D. Ediciones de Diseño). These were the first of his furniture designs to reveal a strong naturalistic inspiration. His mature buildings included the striking Casa Batlló (1904–6) and the Casa Milà (1904–6) also known as La Pedrera or ‘Quarry’. The undulating, flowing forms of the façade and the dramatic sculptural and decorative forms of the roof of the latter are amongst the most striking of Gaudí's designs. Gaudi's work was also increasingly widely recognized outside Catalonia, being exhibited at the Grand Palais in Paris in 1910, and at the Salón de Arquitectura in Madrid in 1911. However, Gaudí's attempt to build a 20th‐century cathedral—the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona—preoccupied him until the end of his life and is perhaps his most widely known work. Still unfinished in the 21st century its organic sculptural forms bear testimony to Gaudí's structural and decorative imagination, rich with decorated organic detailing, much of it enhanced by Gaudí's hallmark of surface patterns created from pieces of broken ceramic. There is considerable debate about the extent to which the ongoing building programme remains faithful to Gaudí's original ideas.


Subjects: Architecture.

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