Antoni Gaudí i Cornet, 1852 (Reus, Tarragona) – 1926 (Barcelona)
Antoni Gaudi’s life’s work is closely attached to the city of Barcelona,which owes many architectural jewels to this imaginative and very individualistic master builder.
He created houses in the style of the Art Nouveau like the Casa Vicens, Casa Calvet, Casa Battlo, Casa Mila, the monastery school of the Theresian order, the palace Guell, the Colonia Guell chapel and the spectacular “unfinished” cathedral Sagrada Familia.
Gaudi’s unmistakable stylistic idiom manifests itself especially in this gigantic sacred building, which kept him busy, with few interruptions, from youth up to his death. This enormous monument waits today for its
completion. Only the east transept with four 100 m high towers was completed during his lifetime, but they give us a idea of the enormous project. In 1883 Gaudi received the commission for the building of this cathedral, from which a neogothic draft already existed from the architect Francisco de Villar. An unexpected but substantial donation made possible for Gaudi to reject Villar’s original draft and to plan a monumental work with 12 towers, five long ships and three transverse houses.
Gaudi was a very practical man and craftsman. He converted plans creatively into reality, made constantly changes in favour of the whole, and followed sudden impulses. The harmony of the construction units, forms and materials to an alive synthesis, to a singular synthesis of the arts was important for him. Talented, with rich imagination and the willingness to embrace new styles, he looked often empirically for constructional possibilities, converting them in a technically solid manner. In co-operation with native bricklayers he explored the technical possibilities of the Catalan curving technology and created many innovations which expanded the limits of construction and fantasy.
Behind everything that Antoni Gaudi realised, stood his religious metaphysic view. As the nature forms stand in their varieties and regularities for the marvelous interaction of an all-comprehensive divine unit, then architecture is for him the highest of all arts becoming likewise image and symbol of this divine unit. Even the music would parallel the synthesis of the architecture. The lofts of the cathedral were intended to accommodate large choirs. The towers would receive enormous custom-designed bell tubes; their ringing, together with the singing of ten thousands of believers would transform the whole city into a banquet hall. A genius with strong convictions such as Gaudi was needed to co-ordinate all these concepts, both mentally and practically into harmony.
La Sagrada Família
The east transept with its four 100 m high sweet corn-like formed towers and the three-gradated portal was completed during Gaudi’s lifetime. The front seems overloaded with sacred motives, symbols, ornamentals from nature, stalagmite fiales, naturalistic figures. It is crowned by spires of coloured mosaics, which take up contact with the heavenly region like the points of the pyramids.
In this building he intended to retain a feeling for gothic structures but to arrange and animate them, however, at the same time in a completely new organic stylistic idiom. Building master, building craftsman, stress analyst and designer, he lived and worked in his quite modest way for this task all his life. Day by day the citizens could see him on the way to the building site: An old man with white beard, who did not shrink to ask for its church for alms. From 1910 he refused all other commissions, in order to dedicate himself completely to the
Sagrada Familia. Like the building masters of the Middle Ages he allowed the cathedral to grow from religious spirit attitude itself alone into the sky. The work was however suddenly interrupted, as Gaudi was run over by a streetcar on 10 June 1926 while walking near the building site.
Later, international efforts tired to complete the work in the sense of its creator Gaudi. Not such an easy venture considering that Gaudi’s work was made richer by improvisations, surprises and mysteries. He looked intuitively for solutions and found to each construction a poetic expression. To compound the task, many of the designs, plans and models left by Gaudi were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. In the year 1952 Spain rediscovered Gaudi and his work; this Gaudi Renaissance, continues today. All Gaudi buildings were placed under monument protection and a Gaudi museum in Barcelona was established. Since that time work on the Sagrada Familia has continued.
In his worldly buildings Gaudi shows himself far more clearly as a master of art nouveau, whose intention was to throw off the historic chains of the past and to create at the turn of the century an innovative up-to-date style.
In the heart of Barcelona’s city centre, in Passeig de Gràcia street, one can admire Casa Batlló. Gaudí reconditioned an already existing building with a complete transformation. Nothing at these solidiums is straight-line, instead of right angle and corners the house seems to be modeled in moving waves, flowing dynamically. Into the flux of the front coloured mosaic stones from glazed terracotta and coloured glass are fit in, integrated by his fantasyful collaborator Josef Jujol. The iridescent mosaic tiles and undulating gallery gives the house a cheerful expression until one’s eyes rise to the heavy wrought-iron balcony, which rises up like masks.
The entrance hall is spacious and the simply roughcast and tiled walls contrast to the artful out-arranged balustrades. Walls turn into ceilings and floors without interruption.
The art nouveau found its implementation in the decorative, in arts and crafts, furniture design, and both interior and external architecture. Gaudi offers fantasy, symbolism and humor, connecting light and space to show off the details from the interiors of the Casa Batlló.
On the ” bald mountain ” at the outskirts of Barcelona, the Park Güell represents something very characteristic in the work of Gaudi. One could call the park a landscape architecture of special kind, a study of pure fantasy and structural ingenuity. Staircases, grottoes, column courses, water basins of Moorish tiles, harmless monsters and houses as from “A Thousand and One Nights, and much more form a unique experience. At the flank of the hill all paths lead to a long undulating serpentine bench, with a parapet, of a mosaic of broken tiles with invites up to 5,000 persons to rest and marvel.
Gaudi, whose work experienced a large Renaissance, can be integrated badly in a school or a style or a direction; his style is too individual and fantastic. He is attributed to the art nouveau, which flourished around the turn of the century in Europe with national characteristics and different names, and followed the idea of the synthesis of the arts and the organically asymmetrical line. Gaudi has earned the right to a quite special appreciation, since he created buildings of fantasy with such full employment and intuition, which takes us alternatively to astonishment, and to places of the peaceful harmony and beautiful.
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