Antonio Gaudí (Riudoms or Reus, 25 June 1852 – Barcelona, 10 June 1926) was a Spanish Catalan architect and the best-known representative of Catalan Modernism. Gaudí's works are marked by a highly individual style and the vast majority of them are situated in the Catalan capital of Barcelona, including his magnum opus, the Sagrada Família.
Much of Gaudí's work was marked by the four passions of his life: architecture, nature, religion and his love for Catalonia. Gaudí meticulously studied every detail of his creations, integrating into his architecture a series of crafts, in which he himself was skilled, such as ceramics, stained glass, wrought ironwork forging and carpentry. He also introduced new techniques in the treatment of the materials, such as his famous trencadís, made of waste ceramic pieces. After a few years under the influence of neo-Gothic art, and certain oriental tendencies, Gaudí became part of the Catalan Modernista movement which was then at its peak, towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. Gaudí's work, however, transcended mainstream Modernisme, culminating in an organic style that was inspired by nature without losing the influence of the experiences gained earlier in his career. Rarely did Gaudí draw detailed plans of his works and instead preferred to create them as three-dimensional scale models, moulding all details as he was conceiving them in his mind.
Gaudí’s work has widespread international appeal, and there are innumerable studies devoted to his way of understanding architecture. Today he is admired by both professionals and the general public: his masterpiece, the Sagrada Família, is one of the most visited monuments in Spain. Between 1984 and 2005 seven of his works were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. He awakened to his Roman Catholic faith during his life and many religious images can be seen in his works, a fact which has led to his being nicknamed "God's Architect" and calls for him to be beatified.
After his death, Gaudí suffered a period of neglect and his works were unpopular amongst international critics, who regarded them as baroque and excessively imaginative. In his homeland he was equally disdained by Noucentisme, the new movement which took the place of Modernisme. In 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, Gaudí's workshop in the Sagrada Família was ransacked and a great number of his documents, plans and scale models were destroyed. Gaudí’s reputation was beginning to recover by the 1950s, when his work was defended mainly by Salvador Dalí but also by the architect Josep Lluís Sert. In 1956 a retrospective on Gaudí was organised at the Saló del Tinell in Barcelona, and in 1957 his first international exhibition was held, at the MOMA in New York. Between 1950 and 1960, the studies of international critics like George R. Collins, Nikolaus Pevsner and Roberto Pane disseminated Gaudí’s work widely, while in his homeland it was admired by Alexandre Cirici, Juan Eduardo Cirlot and Oriol Bohigas. It is also worth mentioning the high reputation of Gaudí’s work in Japan, where his work is very much admired, the studies by Kenji Imai and Tokutoshi Torii being particularly notable. Ever since, the appreciation of Gaudí’s work has grown, culminating in 1984 when various works were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
One of Gaudí’s largest and most striking works is the Casa Batlló (1904–1906). Commissioned by Josep Batlló i Casanovas to renovate an existing building erected in 1875 by Emili Sala Cortés, Gaudí focused on the façade, the main floor, the patio and the roof, and built a fifth floor for the staff. For this project he was assisted by his aides Domènec Sugrañes, Joan Rubió and Josep Canaleta. The façade is of Montjuïc sandstone cut to create warped ruled surfaces; the columns are bone shaped with vegetable decoration. Gaudí kept the rectangular shape of the old building’s balconies—with iron railings in the shape of masks—giving the rest of the façade an ascending undulating form. He also faced the facade with ceramic fragments of various colours ("trencadís"), which Gaudí obtained from the waste material of the Pelegrí glass works. The interior courtyard is roofed by a skylight supported by an iron structure in the shape of a double T, which rests on a series of catenary aches. The helicoidal chimneys are a notable feature of the roof, topped with conical caps, covered in clear glass in the centre and ceramics at the top, and surmounted by clear glass balls filled with sand of different colours. The façade culminates in catenary vaults covered with two layers of brick and faced with glazed ceramic tiles in the form of scales (in shades of yellow, green and blue), which resemble a dragon’s back; on the left side is a cylindrical turret with anagrams of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and with Gaudi’s four-armed cross.
Teshigahara's documentary made in 1984 on Antoni Gaudi's life that gave rise to an unprecedented boom in Japan with admiration and interest in the work of Spanish architect. Teshigahara captures the viewer in a spectacular journey to the architecture of Gaudí, including his unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
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