If there is an artist whose work has shaped the current perception that everybody has about Barcelona, this is Antoni Gaudí. Although there are only half a dozen buildings of him in Barcelona that are worth visiting, his name is inevitably and definitively linked with Barcelona in the minds of tourists and Barcelonians alike.
Antoni Gaudí was born in 1852 in Reus (Tarragona) and was the son of a boilermaker from Riudoms. (In fact, there is a heated debate about if he was born in Reus or Riudoms, but the most agreed upon place is Reus. If you are from Riudoms and see me in the street, please, don't hit me.)
As a kid, Gaudí was an attentive observer of nature. Later, its forms, colours and geometry would have a deep influence in his architecture, not only as an aesthetic principle, but as a functional principle, too.
A young Gaudí
In 1868, he went to study architecture in Barcelona. The dominating trends in this time were neo-classical and romantic. This later trend, as it happened in other European countries, sparked the nationalistic wish of remembering the most outstanding periods as a an important nation in Europe's history and art, which in Catalonia's case was the medieval period. Gaudí felt very close to this movement (known as "La Renaixença", the Renaissance) and was very Catalanist all his life. Thus, his first architectural production had, as major influences, the mauresque, oriental, and gothic architecture, styles present in the historic buildings of Barcelona and Catalonia. He later became the leading figure in the Modernism (Art Nouveau).
He first worked in the studios of various architects and building foremen, but soon he started receiving his first assignments. He worked often for the Catalan bourgeoisie, primarily for the industrialist Eusebi Güell, his best client, who assigned him the construction of a palace (Palau Güell), the church for the industrial colony Colònia Güell, some pavilions for a summer residence and a city-garden (the Parc Güell).
Other of his main clients was the ecclesiastic world. This would have its most important outcome with the commission by the Association of Devotees of Saint Joseph of the Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família. Strangely, the originality of his work never seemed to be an obstacle for the ecclesiastic authorities to entrust him with important assignments. Gaudí had a very marked religious sensibility and was deeply catholic, so it's not strange that his most important work was a project as the Sagrada Família.
Another of his influences was his respect for the arts and crafts. He usually collaborated with craftsmen and other architects who made works in wrought iron for his buildings (as details in the balconies, etc), and some of the most distinctive traits of his works have more to do with craftsmanship than with other arts, like the "trencadissa", the arrangement of small pieces of ceramics to form kaleidoscopic figures to cover a surface, broadly used in Parc Güell.
Gaudí died after being hit by a streetcar in 1926.
Characterised by the architect's communion with co-operative ideals: all his works from those years have an urban and social basis.
- Collaborations with Josep Fontseré in the Ciutadella park
- Design of lampposts, such as the two in the Plaça Reial
- Factory and two buildings of housing for the co-operative L'Obrera Mataronense.
Central period, marked by an effort to overcome historical styles and obtain plasticity and structural forms of his own, the two basic elements of what can be defined as the Gaudinian style. Free and personal utilisation of Islamic art and Gothic and Baroque styles, and the trades and applied arts. Very careful finishing of the interiors.
- Can Vicens (1883-85)
- El Capricho at Comillas (1883-85)
- Güell pavilions (1884-87)
- Güell Palace (1886-91)
- Episcopal palace of Astorga (1887-94)
- Teresianes school (1888-90)
- Casa de los Botines in León (1891-94)
- Can Calvet (1898-1904)
His most creative and innovative period, in which he develops his most personal style.
He focus exclusively into the Sagrada Família, where he also lives. He develops the fourth project of the naves of the temple and applies practically all the finishing to the towers of the Façade of the Nativity.