Biography of Antoni Gaudí
Antoni Gaudí i Cornet is a Spanish architect, designer and sculptor known for his innovative and extravagant Catalan Modernist designs. He was born on 25 June 1852 in Riudoms, a small town near Reus in Spain, and began his career as an architect in Barcelona, where he builts most of his most important works.
Study of architecture
At the age of 20, Gaudí moves to the Catalan metropolis to study architecture at the Escola Tècnica Superior d’Arquitectura de Barcelona. During his studies he works as an assistant to various architects, including Josep Fontsere and Josep Maria Sagnier. In 1878 he graduates with distinction.
Gaudí is a very spiritual man and is inspired by nature, the beauty created by ‘God’. He subordinates all his work to this vision: “I try to show the beauty of God that I see in his creation”, Antoni Gaudí expresses his philosophy. As the child of a family of boilermakers, Gaudí already acquires an understanding of materials, space and volume by watching his grandmother and father at work and by lending a hand himself. As a child, he is often ill and therefore forced to keep house. He passes the time by observing nature, even studying it. When Gaudí graduates in 1878, the director Elies Rogent bids him farewell with the words: “I don’t know whether we have given him the title of madman or genius, time will tell.”
Already then Gaudí has his own unique and unmistakable style, inspired by nature as well as Catalan culture and folklore, and clearly out of the conventional. He often uses organic shapes and colours reminiscent of nature and incorporated them into his designs in a unique and artistic way. He uses traditional techniques and materials such as brick, ceramics and wood. Gaudí achieves the necessary stability with steel girders, which give his buildings – despite all the dynamics of form and playfulness – the necessary stability. The steel girders function like bones in a skeleton. In general, Gaudí’s structures seem less like buildings and more like organisms that seem to adapt to their purpose. “I believe that nature is the best architect,” Gaudí says.
Gaudí and Güell
In mid-1878, the paths of Eusebi Güell and Antoni Gaudí cross. This seemingly chance meeting will prove to be a historic one, for Güell has the financial means and social influence and Gaudí the ideas. As different as the two seem at first, they are united by their admiration for each other and their tendency to share the same tastes. Güell becomes Gaudí’s pioneer and patron.
Thus, after his studies, Gaudí first begins his work as an architect with the design and construction of residential and public buildings. In relation to his later work, these are smaller projects in Barcelona, in which he largely focuses on the design of the building envelope and which are less well known to the general public. An example of this is the Casa Vicens, a residential building in the Carrer de les Carolines, which Gaudí builts from 1883 to 1885. His first building serves as a summer residence for the Vicens family and demonstrates Gaudí’s beginnings as an architect and his early ideas and styles. Today, Casa Vicens is a museum that welcomes visitors. The brick-red building stands out for its striking colour and design and is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.
Casa de los Botines
Another notable Gaudí project that is often overlooked is the Casa de los Botines in León. Work on the 800-square-meter residential and commercial building in the Castile region of north-western Spain begins in 1890 when the construction plans are drawn up, and it is built between 1891 and 1892. The Casa de los Botines is considered one of Gaudi’s first major projects and demonstrates his ability to work in a variety of architectural styles. The imposing building is in the neo-Gothic or neo-Gothic style and is a listed building. Today it houses a museum, where you can also visit two residential floors from the period with historic furnishings.
Bishop’s Palace of Astorga
Parallel to the Casa de los Botines, Gaudí builts the Bishop’s Palace of Astorga in neighbouring Astorga from 1887 to 1893. At least he is entrusted with the first construction phase of the monumental building in the neo-Gothic style with accents from Art Nouveau and builts it up to the first floor. Just as Anton Gaudí does not complete the building, no bishop ever moves into it.
Another rather unknown project by Gaudi, but one that should definitely be mentioned, is the Casa Calvet. The residential and commercial building at Carrer de Casp 48 in Barcelona, which he builts between 1898 and 1900 for the textile manufacturer Pedro Mártir Calvet, is often described as Gaudi’s most ‘normal’ building. Although it is less well known because it is less conspicuous, Casa Calvet demonstrates Gaudí’s ability to work in a more traditional style and, above all, highlights his skills as an interior designer. Particularly noteworthy in this context would be the Calvet Chair and the Calvet Armchair, which are still available today in their original form at TAGWERC.
Architecture of light
It is already clear from Casa Calvet that Gaudí is a pioneer in the use of light in architecture. He places particular emphasis on allowing natural light to stream into his buildings. Gaudí integrates artificial light as an accent or uses it to achieve special effects. This design aspect can be experienced particularly in the Sagrada Familia church and in Park Güell.
The legendary Park Güell, today an absolute tourist magnet in the Catalan metropolis of Barcelona, is one of his first, larger and holistic projects. Today, the public Park Güell is visited mainly for its fantastic colours and shapes and is perceived as unique and fantastic. In fact, however, it is the holistic architecture, with its unique sights and unexpected views, as well as organically shaped walls and seating areas, that make up the concept of Park Güell and are emblematic of Gaudí’s style. Park Güell is located in the Gràcia district of La Salut. Antoni Gaudí builts the park between 1900 and 1914 on behalf of his patron Eusebi Güell, after whom it is named. Eusebi Güell (1846 – 1918), industrialist, politician and patron of the arts, is an avowed Freemason. The Gaudí bills also bear the typical symbols of the Freemasons: a protractor and compasses, which suggests that Antoni Gaudí also belonged to the order.
Park Güell has a considerable size of 17.18 hectares. The park, which you should therefore plan to spend at least two hours visiting, is also home to Gaudí’s residence. He lives here from 1906 to 1925, until one year before his death. Gaudí’s home now houses the Gaudí Museum and the pieces of furniture he designed. Some of his plans and drawings are also on display here and can be admired. Throughout his life, Gaudí devotes a great deal of time and energy to documenting his projects and presenting them. Most of these documents have been preserved to this day and parts of them can be viewed in Gaudí’s former residence. Park Güell has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984, as have other works by Gaudí such as the Sagrada Familia church.
In 1883, Antoni Gaudí begins building the Sagrada Familia church. With the honour of being entrusted with this project, Gaudí imagines himself at the goal of his dreams. “I have always dreamed of building a church that looks like a forest where birds build their nests,” describes Antoni Gaudí. At the same time, this mammoth task becomes his life’s project. The Sagrada Familia is Gaudí’s and Barcelona’s most imposing and probably best-known building. Until his death in 1926, the grand master of architecture continues to work on the building, which is finally completed in 1935 in the form of the so-called ‘birth façade’. While the construction of the Casa de los Botines only takes a year, the church becomes a project of the century, which is still being built in Gaudí’s style today. The plan is that construction of the Sagrada Familia should be completed in 2026, the 100th year of Gaudí’s death. This now seems unrealistic. The church is a masterpiece of the Modernisme, the Catalan Modernism, a very special variety of Art Nouveau, which Gaudí decisively influenced. It is representative of the architecture of Gaudí and Barcelona.
Another famous work by Gaudi is the Casa Batlló, a residential building in the Passeig de Gràcia, which he builts in 1904-1906. It is considered one of his masterpieces and is characterised by its bizarre shapes and use of colour. At TAGWERC, there are the furniture pieces Batlló Chair and Batlló Bench. The chair and bench are also designed by Gaudí as part of a holistic architectural project in which the architect also designs the interiors. They are still made today in the same handcrafted manner and are unique design objects in the style of Modernism.
Casa Milà is built next to Casa Batlló. One of Gaudí’s most unusual projects – also known as La Pedrera – a residential building on the Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona, which he builts for the Milà family from 1906 to 1910. It is characterised by its unusual forms and its use of natural materials and is considered one of the best and most famous examples of Catalan Modernist architecture, or Modernisme. Not to mention the design of squares and streets such as the Plaça Reial and the Rambla de Catalunya. The latter is still one of the most popular and frequented streets in Barcelona. The avenue is lined with lime trees and leads from the sea into the city centre of Barcelona, with its core reserved for pedestrians.
In addition to his work in Barcelona and for private clients, Gaudí was involved in a number of public building projects in other parts of Spain. Examples include the restoration of Las Seu, the Gothic-style cathedral of Palma de Mallorca, and the design of part of the Montaña Pelada park in his native Reus.
Gaudí also moves professionally on the international stage. Projects in South America, especially in Colombia, bear his signature. He designs the residential building El Rosedal in Bogotá and participates in the design of the park El Parque del Periodista, also in the Colombian capital. These projects contribute to Gaudí’s international influence.
Torre de Bellesguard
There are also some unfinished projects by Gaudí that were not completed after his death, such as the project for the Torre de Bellesguard residence, also known as Casa Figueras, which is now privately owned and parts of which can be visited since 2013. It is guarded or protected by a dragon, the ‚Dragon of Bellesguard‘.
With so much architectural plasticity, it is not surprising that Gaudí is a talented sculptor and creates many decorative elements for his buildings, ornaments and sculptures, himself. For the most part, he models with plaster. Other interior objects are made of wood or metal.
Source of inspiration
Gaudí’s creative power and inimitable style reverberate and inspire architects right up to contemporary architecture. The mix of organic shapes combined with colours, the use of natural materials and his architectural connection with nature and the environment are visionary and far ahead of his time. They have a lasting influence on the world of architecture and design and find many imitators.
Attention and significance
Instead of fading away over the years, Gaudí’s works are gaining more and more attention and significance worldwide, especially in recent decades. Most of his buildings have been preserved to this day and keep the memory of their creator alive as museums for posterity to experience. There are numerous books and films that reflect and interpret Gaudí’s life and works.
Influence on architecture and Catalan culture
All of this contributes to the fact that Gaudí is today regarded as one of the best-known and most important personalities in the history of architecture. His works are an indispensable part of the cultural landscape of Barcelona, and indeed of Spain, and are artefacts of a bygone era that are still worth seeing today. His influence on modernist architecture and on Catalan culture and history is undisputed.
Accident on the way to the building site
After 1912, Gaudí withdraws more and more from the public eye. The dandy with a penchant for society and good food of the past has become an unkempt man who eats and lives sparsely. Until his death, Gaudí lives in seclusion in Park Güell, near the Sagrada Familia. Nevertheless, he continues to work on the church until he is killed in a tram accident on the way to the construction site of the Sagrada Familia on 10 June 1926, 15 days before his 74th birthday. No one recognises the neglected, injured man at the scene of the accident. At the opulent funeral two days later, all of Barcelona lines the funeral procession and pays its last respects to Anton Gaudí.
Gaudí, an exceptional architect
To this day, Antoni Gaudí’s influence on modern architecture is enormous and his works are world-famous. They are visited by millions of tourists every year. He is considered one of the most important architects of the 20th century and many of his works have already been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
Design classics by Antoni Gaudí at TAGWERC
At TAGWERC you can get the Antoni Gaudí Design Classics Collection. Online, at the TAGWERC Design STORE, experience a curated selection of Antoni Gaudí design objects. For all Antoni Gaudí objects not listed here, we will be happy to make you an individual offer.
Sagrada Família in Barcelona
Casa Vicens in Barcelona
Villa Quijano (El Capricho), Comillas
Güell Pavillons in Barcelona
Bischofspalast von Astorga
Casa Botines in León
Casa Calvet in Barcelona
Park Güell in Barcelona
Casa Batlló in Barcelona
Casa Milà (La Pedrera) in Barcelona
Colònia Güell Krypta in Santa Coloma de Cervelló