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Antoni Gaudi - Barcelona's famous modernist architect E-mail


Antoni Gaudí
Barcelona's famous architect

Antoni Gaudi - full name Antoni Plàcid Guillem Gaudí Cornet - was a Catalan architect of Spanish nationality. He is Barcelona's and Spain's most famous architect. Seven of his most amazing structures in Barcelona are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites and are visited by around 13 million people a year.

Gaudi was born one hour south of Barcelona in Reus in 1852. He died in 1926 when he was tragically hit by a tram. The still unfinished temple church La Sagrada Familia is his most famous building in Barcelona, which he was working on exclusively at the time of this death.

Famous Gaudi buildings in Barcelona
Pictures La Sagrada Familia by Gaudi
TICKETS Gaudi and Sagrada Família Tour
Modernist architecture Barcelona

Gaudi's full name was Antoni Plàcid Guillem Gaudí Cornet.  He was born in 1852 in the town of Reus near Tarragona to the south of Barcelona in Spain in 1852. Gaudi is the most famous architect of the Catalan modernist era, but Gaudi style was actually quite unique and unlike many other modernist styles of the time.

Gaudi combined gothicism, surrealism and modernist styles in a uniquely peculiar and almost warped style, which can be described as Gaudi'ism.

'The straight line belongs to man. The curved line belongs to God' - Antonio Gaudi

Gaudi's belief was that straight lines were the work of man, whereas curved lines were the work of nature and many of his most famous works reflect this search to create buildings that were inspired by nature's shapes and forms.

Gaudí’s first major project was the Mataró Cooperative (a project for housing factory workers), which was shown at the Paris World Fair in 1878. This project brought him a good measure of attention and led to a meeting with Eusebi Güell who was a leading industrialist of the time and one of the richest men in the world.

Guell would become a close friend and the biggest sponsor of Gaudi's work throughout Gaudi's career. Guell should be commended for his part in Gaudi's genius because he never attempted to impose limits or change on the architect's visions during the many years of their collaboration.

Gaudi's unfinished church - La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

Gaudi's still unfinished church - La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

In 1882 Gaudí began work on his greatest - and still unfinished - building, which is the famous La Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona.  This project was initially begun by Francisco de Paula del Villar, but taken over by Gaudi in 1882.

For the next 30 years, Gaudí worked on the Sagrada Familia basilica and on other projects simultaneously. From 1911 onwards and until his death, he devoted himself exclusively to the cathedral.

Serpent bench at Parc Guell by Gaudi 

Serpent bench at Parc Guell by Gaudi

Gaudí was a lifelong bachelor, a vegetarian, an conservative and a fervent Catalonian nationalist. In his later years he lived with his father and sister in Park Guell. Both his sister and father passed away quite quickly after the family moved in, and in his final years Gaudi lived alone spending much of his time in his studio at the Sagrada Familia.

Photo below: La Pedrera building on Passeig de Gracia in Barcelona

La Pedrera building by Antoni Gaudi

Gaudí became increasingly shabby in his last years and when he was tragically hit by a tram on 7th June in 1926 at the junction of the streets Gran Via and Bailen in Barcelona (click for map).

Gaudi was so poorly dressed and carried no identification paperss, so he was not recognized at the scene of the accident and taxi drivers refused to take this injured "vagabond" to a hospital. The taxi drivers were later fined by the police. 

Casa Batllo on street Passeig de Gracia in Barcelona

Casa Batllo - on street Passeig de Gracia in Barcelona

Gaudi was gravely injured in the tram accident, but was not recognised. Because he looked like a homeless and poor person, he was taken to a Barcelona hospital for the poor called Antic Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau. The hospital building still stands on the street Carrer de l'Hospital, 56  (click for map) in the Raval district of Barcelona's old city near La Rambla street. Even at the hospital he was still not recognised as the great architecht and was given a bed with the indigent patients. His friends found him eventually and three days after the accident, on the 10th of June 1926, Gaudi died from his injuries. The last words Gaudi spoke were, 'Amen, my God, my God'.  A death mask was made of Gaudi's face, which is on display at the Gaudi house museum in Parc Guell.

Palau Guell roof on street Nou de la Rambla

Roof of Palau Guell building by Antoni Gaudi on street Nou de la Rambla

A huge number of Barcelona citizens attended Gaudi's funeral to honour him and to accompany his casket to his final resting place in his beloved masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia, where he now rests in peace in the crypt. After 44 years of devotion to the construction of this temple, this was a fitting place for its creator to be interred as an inspiration to those who came after to complete this unique Barcelona landmark. 

As is often the case with many visionaries, Gaudí was perhaps not truly acknowledged during his own lifetime. Official organizations refused many times to support or applaud his unique talent. The City of Barcelona tried many times to block or change Gaudí's works because ithey failed to conform to city regulations. The only project the City assigned to Gaudi was that of designing street lamps which still stand on the Plaça Reial in the Gothic quarter. Gaudi received the Barcelona city "Building of the Year" award only once for his work on the apartment block Casa Calvet which is not considered as a significant work today.

Statue of Gaudi by sculptor Joaquim Camps at Portal Miralles in Barcelona


Gaudi trivia

When Gaudi was young he worked as an assistent on the Chapel of the Virgin at Montserrat mountain located 1 hour from Barcelona, which gave him inspiration later in life to base many of his designs on nature.Gaudi also worked on the Cascade fountain in Ciutadella park.

In 1908 Gaudi submitted an innovative design for a New York skyscraper hotel called Attraction Hotel. The Attraction Hotel project was commissioned in May 1908. Planned at a total height of 360 metres, it was perhaps too daring for its time. Little is known about its origin, and the project remained obscure until 1956, when a report by Joan Matamala i Flotats called 'When the New World called Gaudí' was published. The drawings for the Attraction Hotel were proposed as a basis for the rebuilding of Ground Zero in Manhattan after the 911 tragedy.

Attraction Hotel New York design by Gaudi


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Barcelona's Gaudi UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

Park Güell
Palau Güell
La Pedrera(Casa Mila)

Casa Vicens (not open to public)
Sagrada Familia church
Casa Batlló
Crypt in Colonia Güell  (outside Barcelona)

Bellesguard/Casa Figueres manor house

Guide to modernist Barcelona

Other Gaudi works in Barcelona include:

Casa Calvet - closed to public, but restaurant on ground floor
Colegio Teresiano - not open to public
Bellesguard/Casa Figueres  manor house - partially open to public
Lamp posts on Plaza Reial
The dragon gate at Güell Pavilions
Portal Miralles. Gate of former Miralles estate

Photo below: Portal Miralles by Gaudi in Sarria area of Barcelona


Related Gaudi pages

Gaudi Experience - 4D Gaudi
Make a Gaudi artwork -1 hour Trencadis classes in Barcelona

More Gaudi links
TICKETS Gaudi and Sagrada Família Tour

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