June 25 – Antoni Gaudi

Posted on June 25, 2014

I just got back from a visit to Barcelona, Spain. I have a t-shirt that says “Barcelona” alongside a picture of broken-tile mosaic lizard.

What does a broken-tile mosaic lizard have to do with a busy, cosmopolitan port city in the north of Spain, on the Mediterranean Sea?

Well...the broken-tile mosaic lizard has to do with today's birthday boy, Antoni Gaudi. And Barcelona is Gaudi crazy. And tourists like me who come to Barcelona are especially Gaudi crazy. 

So broken-tile mosaic lizard = Gaudi = Barcelona.

Gaudi was born on this date in 1852 in Catalonia, Spain. (Catalonia is a region of Spain. It's not entirely clear if Gaudi was born in the town of Riudoms or Reus.) Gaudi grew up to be an architect, and he created the best-known examples of Catalan Modernism.

Gaudi was very influenced by nature and by his religious beliefs (he was Catholic). He was interested in every detail of his designs, and his buildings and gardens included many different sorts of “crafts” such as ceramics, wrought-ironwork, stained glass, and carpentry. One of the new crafts he introduced was trencadis, which is a kind of mosaic made from broken tile shards.

Yes, like that lizard!

I loved loved loved Gaudi's buildings and other structures. I just cannot for the life of me understand why his designs didn't sweep over the world. Shouldn't there be one of these buildings in every town?

And we should all have access to one of these covered walkways?

Here are some interesting facts about Gaudi and his work:

  • Gaudi rarely drew up elaborate plans for his buildings and other structures. Instead, he created 3-dimensional models, and he molded details as he thought of them.

  • Gaudi studied a lot of other subjects along with architecture, although he only earned average grades and sometimes failed courses. When he was given his diploma, the director of the Barcelona Architecture School said, “We have given this academic title either to a fool or a genius. Time will show.”

  • Gaudi tried to integrate his buildings and his landscaping into the natural landscape already present. He also chose native materials or materials that would help his creations to fit the natural setting.
  • Gaudi devoted the last decade of his life to his magnum opus, a church called La Sagrada Familia (the Sacred Family). It is a huge structure, with a 5-aisled nave, a transept with three aisles, and an apse with seven chapels. The plans include 18 towers. 

The interior of the church was designed to resemble a forest.

Only a small portion of La Sagrada Familia was completed by the time of Gaudi's death in 1926 (tragically, he was struck by a tram and received poor medical care because people thought he was “just a beggar”). However, work has continued under several architects devoted to carrying out Gaudi's plans, and the church is expected to be completed in 2026...or so!

Learn more about Gaudi in this video. 

Here is an hour-long show just about Gaudi's unfinished cathedral. Or try this super-short vision of what the cathedral will look like when it is finished. 

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