Antoni Gaudi, An Architectural Genius or Madman?
Bodegas Guell (1882). Source: (Wikipedia)
Antoni Gaudi was a very unique and talented architect. Most of his work was done in Barcelona. Not a lot is known about Gaudi as a person but his talent for architecture is quite well-known. His style was so unusual that there are many who have been fascinated at how he utilized colors, shapes, and materials. Then there were those who thought he was just a religious maniac with bad taste. His unfinished work of the Sagrada Familia was mocked at by Picasso and called one of the most hideous buildings in the world by George Orwell; but, for some reason, millions of tourists from all over the world come to see it.
Gaudi was associated with a very wealthy industrialist named Eusebi Guell. He set him up for life financially. Besides the Bodegas Guell (1882), some of his other works produced were the Finca Guell (1884-1887), the Guell Palace (1885-1889), the Crypt of the Colonia Guell (1898-1887), and the Guell Park (1900-1914).
Gaudi was born in June of 1852. As a young boy, he developed rheumatic fever causing him to be very fragile. He was unable to attend school right away because of it. This disease plagued him his whole life. He had a brother named Francesc who died at the age of 25 just two months before their mother died.
He helped his father a lot in his shop. His father was a coppersmith where he learned a lot about architecture. Because he was unable to run due to rheumatism, he spent a lot of time just observing nature. He considered nature to be “the supreme work of the creator.” At the age of 18 years old, he started at the University of Barcelona to study architecture. When he graduated, the director said at his graduation: “We awarded the diploma to a madman or a genius. Time will tell.”
His first real project was the Casa Vicens in 1883. It was built in the district of Gracia in Barcelona. This was built for a stockbroker who wanted a summer home. After having been closed up to the public for a long time, it finally re-opened for tourists in 2017.
Casa Batllo was built to look like a dream house with ceramic and glass along with a roof allegory of Saint George killing the dragon. The owner, Josep Batllo told him to destroy the building that he had purchased and then, by using his imagination, build him a masterpiece. Instead of destroying the old building, Gaudi remodels it. This house is also known as the “House of Bones.” The balconies somewhat resemble pieces of skulls with eye and nose openings; some of the columns resemble tree trunks, and the columns of the first floor resemble the shape of human bones.
Nicknamed La Pedrera, which means “the quarry,” this building was named so because of the nearby cliffs. The building has the appearance of waviness to it and actually does not even contain a single straight line. This one caused Gaudi the trouble of a lawsuit because the owners refused to pay him in full. Despite the problems, it has become part of the Catalan modernism that Gaudi was known for.
The project of Sagrada Familia was what he devoted the last years of his life to. He spent 12 years actually living there while he worked on it. This project was so dear to him that he even asked for donations. It was not completed before his death. After he passed, his body was actually laid to rest there. Through visitors’ donations, it is now expected to be completed by 2026.
He had become quite a well-refined man who spent a lot of effort on how he was dressed but then something happened that changed him. He became a shabby little man who did not care anymore about how he looked. In fact, he became almost a recluse. It was such a dramatic change from the way people knew him that on the day he died, no one even recognized him. He was hit by a tram and when the ambulance finally came, they thought he was just a tramp and was even given the wrong name. This accident caused his death. When his true identity was cleared up, there was a huge turnout for his funeral.
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