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Home arrow Architects arrow Antonio Gaudi

Antonio Gaudí Biography PDF Print E-mail
An example of Antonio Gaudi's architectureAntoni Plàcid Gaudí Cornet was born in 1852 at Reus near Tarragona, as a son of a smith; the mother originates from a family of potters and dies while he is still a child. After an apprenticeship as a smith (the basis for his excellent use of the material) Gaudi began studying architecture at the Escola Superior d'Arquitectura in Barcelona. There he didn't really strike as a good student, but nevertheless achieved his diploma of archtecture in 1878. With his study finished, he undetook travels through Catalonia and the surrounding regions. The works of Eugenie Viollet-le-Duc about medieval buildings and a visit to Carcasonne, where Viollet-le-Duc was engaged with renovations, should influence him strongly. Besides this, Gaudí thought about social problems and was working out plans for workers homes.

His first work is, even before he finishes his studies, the fontain complex in the Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona, together with Josep Fontserè i Mestres, which was completed 1877-82. Other early buildings are the Casa Vicens, which is being built in Barcelona 1878-80; and El Capricho, a house at Comillas in the north of Spain, on which Gaudí is working from 1883-85, despite the fact that he has never been to the construction site (a habit that should later change, when he lived on site). There here proved his perfect knowledge of iron as a material, the basics he learned during his apprenticeship.

1882 Gaudí began working for Count Eusebi Güell, the one who should later become his greatest promoter. For him Gaudí erected some buildings at Güell's estate at Les Corts near Barcelona. The Order included the porter's lodge, the stables and the main gate. At this time, Barcelona was a boomtown, und Maecenas as Güell, who was a rich textile factory owner and - as one of the people behind Catalonias industrialisation - a person with influence, were able to support the arts.

On the proposal of Joan Martorell, who was in charge of the Sagrada Familia project, the only 31 year old Gaudí took over the direction on November 3rd, 1883 from Francesc de Paula Villar, the dioceses architect, who has resigned. Until his death, 34 years later, he was working in the Sagrada Familia.

For Güell, Gaudi began works in the Palau Güell 1885, located in the old town, today just offside the Ramblas in the middle of the Barrio Chine, one of the less comfortable quarters of the City. In his palace, Güell gathered around him various intellectuals, Gaudí was a frequent Guest and during this period, he discovered the theroies of John Ruskin, which produced dicussions in Barcelona at this time.

Still working on the Palau Güell, he erected the pavillon of the Compañia Transatlántica for the maritime exhibition in Cadiz. One year later another pavillon of the same company was added for the world exposition in Barcelona. The navigation company (at this time the biggest in Spain), was owned ny Güells, brother-in-law, the Marqués de Comillas.

1887 another order interrupted the works on the Sagrada Familia and the Palau Güell: The Bishop of Astorga, Juan Grau, called him to León to replace the old episcopal palace, which was destroyed by fire, by a new one. Gaudí stopped his engagement after the sudden death of Grau in 1890; the episcopal Palace was finished by Luis de Guereta, an architect from Marid. Just having returned to Barcelona, Gaudí took care of another ecclesiastical building, Convento Teresiano, which was finished 1894. On the background of the orders statutes of econmoy, this building strongly marked - quite contrary to his earlier works - neo-gothic elements. Beeing economic wasn't always easy for Gaudí, crazy about details: As the client, Reverend Enrique Ossó, criticized him for his increasinly high invoices, Gaudí answered: „Everybody on his part, Reverend Enrique, ich build houses, you preach and say the mass.“

Always it has been Gaudís intention to include other arists in his arhitecture (for him, architecture was the mother of arts). However, this cooperation wasn't completely without difficulties this due to this attitude, and even with close friends like Carles Maní, with whom he worked on the Casa Mila, the relationship wasn't without tensions.

Two ideals dominated Gaudís understanding of architecture: One was the idea of a „mediterranean Gothic“, which was adapting the structural basics of the Gothic to the light and climate of the mediterranean, the other was the continuation of catholicism in architecture. Gaudí intended „Gothic not of the dusky north, but of the bright sunshine“. Despite all this, Gaudí was influenced by his time and the ideas of a romantic renaissance .

From 1898 to 1904 Gaudí worked on the Casa Calvet in the Carrer Casp, and 1901 he was awarded the price of the city of Barcelona - the only award he ever got. In 1898 as well he got an order from his promotor Güell to build housings and a social infrastructure for the workers of his factory in Santa Coloma de Cervelló. Gaudí used the chapel there as an experimental plattform for other constructions, and many of what later should become real at the Sagrada Familia, was tried out here first. Also, the diagonal pillars for the teracce at the Parc Güell were used here first.

The construction at the workers colony were never finished, and also in the Parc Güell, which was planned as a garden colony, just a few houses were completed. From 1906 on Gaudí himself lived the together with his father and his niece.

1905 works start on the Casa Battló at the Passeig de Gracia, where Gaudís Ideas of colors are shown very characteristically. In the same year, construction began on Casa Milá, also called „La Pedrera“ (the quarry): „This was Gaudíis last and most ambitious plan of an apartment complex, it stands symbolic for all he ever tried to reach“. This project also remained unfinished; the madonna statues by Carles Maní were never erected.

Despite al these projects the works on the Sagrada Familia remained in the focus. 1909 he built the small Council School of the Sagrada Familia, which should later impress Le Corbusier so much. During his last years Gaudí lived as a poor man, no matter how far he was known internationally and how famous he was in his hometown. He almost didn't leave his small shop below the Sagrada Familia. Gaudí was deeply religiös. His immense knowledge of the liturgy is shown in the organisation of theSagrada Familia, which is, despite its - on the first view - quite unusual sketch, built to its purpose like no other church. Since the day, when Gaudí took over works on „Great Cathedral of the Poor“ in the year 1883, all his life an works turned around this project. 1911 Gaudí got ill and spent the time together with his friend Dr. Santaló in Puigcerda in the Pyrenees. At this time the budget for the Sagrada Familia was dangerously low, and Gaudí accompanied Josep Dalmases, den grandson of Bocabellas and his succedor, on visits to potential donors. In fact, some years later a substantial contribution could be received.

On late afternoon, after he finished his works, Gaudí used to leave his shop for a walk, usually to the church St. Philipp Neri. On June 7th, 1926, he got caught by a streetcar while passing a street. Because of his old clothing the uncouncious was brought to a hospital for the poor, the Hospital de la Santa Creu, gebracht, where he later was found by the deacon of the Sagrada Familia and the architect Sugranyes, who brought him to a private room, where he died three days later, on June 10th, 1926.

„A long funeral procession followed his remains to the crypt of the Sagrada Familia, where he was buried - friends, workers, intellectuals, and people of the community, who have known, loved and admired him for so long“.

Taken from www.antonigaudi.net
©1996-1999 STEFAN WUERSCHINGER
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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