How Much Do You Know About: Antoni Gaudi

Antoni Gaudi… An oldie… But a good one! He is a prominent architect of Catalan descent, he was from Barcelona, Spain. He was a proponent of Catalan Modernisme–another strain of Art Nouveau–before developing his own style. His work is often cited as being inspired by his love of natural design and modernism... But… How much do YOU really know about him? Let’s put your knowledge to the TEST.

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If you’ve ever been to Barcelona (or if you just know about culture honestly), chances are you’ve heard of the incredibly talented and influential Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí. Though he started as part of the Modernista movement, he quickly differentiated himself from the other modernist architects of the time. With his own unique style and flair, Gaudí managed to stand out from the crowd and establish himself as one of the greatest architects of all time.

Gaudí’s style was not the only thing unique about him, however. The renowned architect was an interesting character who led a fascinating life and ultimately had a bizarre death.

Where did most of his design inspiration come from?

A) Materials
B) Catholicism
C) Nature

Image credit: The Sagraga Familia, Architectural Digest

C) Nature

Gaudi took inspiration from many things. Nature and the Roman Catholic religion were his main inspirations. Crafts also influenced Gaudi’s work, such as carpentry, wrought ironwork forging, ceramics, and stained glass. Gaudi even incorporated these into his work. His work was mainly rooted in his love for nature. He preferred the organic swirling curves of nature to man-made straight lines. He rarely ever used straight lines in any of his works.

But he didn’t start up just working after school. In fact, he was really bad in school. He scraped the bottom of the barrel so extensively, it prompted Elies Rogent, the Director of Barcelona Architecture School (BAS), to state: “We have given this academic title either to a fool or a genius. Time will show.” And it did. As an undergraduate and a draftsman for many famous architects such as Joan Rubio and Cesar Martinell, Gaudi already had clients.

What is his most famous piece of architecture?

A) Park Guell
B) La Sagrada Familia
C) Casa Batllo

Image Credit: Widewalls

B) La Sagrada Familia

The Sagrada Família is Gaudí’s posthumous success, even during construction. Gaudí’s magnum opus has been under construction since 1882 and is slated for completion in 2027. That’s 145 years, if anyone’s counting. But who is? Gaudí designed the inside of the cathedral in the shape of a cross and to look like the interior of a forest, the façade to contain biblical elements and scenes from the nativity, and the spires to represent the apostles, the Virgin Mary, the four evangelists, and Jesus Christ (the largest one, naturally).

Every year, a different element of the church is unveiled as construction progresses, each iteration providing a limited-time-only experience. Some people may be interested in seeing the finished product, but most will be interested in the evolution of this grandiose structure filled with symbolism, color, light, and, of course, religion. While 150 years is certainly a long time to build something, think about this: when La Sagrada Familia is completed, it will have taken longer to build than the Egyptian Pyramids, and only 50 years less than the Great Wall of China. That’s pretty amazing. Also… The fact that Antoni is buried in the basilica. THAT is more amazing.

Who was Antoni Gaudi’s patron?

A) King Louis XIV
B) Eusebi Guell
C) The Medici Family

B) Eusebi Guell

Well… If you chose King Louis XVI, just know that you are in another country altogether. And if you chose the Medici, which were Italian, you are also in a whole other time period. The Medici were famous during the Renaissance.

His friendship with the industrialist Eusebi Guell would yield lifelong commissions, as Guell gave him at least five major projects. One famous example is the Parc Guell, a public park system in Barcelona, Spain, composed of gardens and architectural details. Another is the Palau Guell, a mansion he designed for the industrial tycoon which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Another thing that you have to know is that he wasn’t really… Very well liked.

Out of these three, who liked his work?

A) Salvador Dali
B) George Orwell
C) Pablo Picasso

Image Credit: YouTube

A) Salvador Dali

While Gaudí was alive many people hated his work. Some of whom included Pablo Picasso and George Orwell. Orwell called La Sagrada Familia one of the world’s most hideous buildings. Surrealists and Cubists see reality in a different ways than realists and traditionalists do. They look like they’d go along, right? Not necessarily – unlike Dalí, Picasso was a little less enthusiastic about the Surrealist architect’s work. So unenthused was he, he bade both Gaudí and the Sagrada Família to hell.

As the creator of mind-bending surrealist spaces allows visitors to step into what seems like his wildest imaginarium, Gaudí has a ton of fans these days. It’s also fitting that one of his biggest fans be the master of surrealist mind-bending art, Salvador Dalí. The two Catalan men definitely did share a unique viewpoint on their craft: they both disobeyed the traditional rules of realism, and they both seemed to be exceedingly wary of the straight line. It was Dalí that said, ‘Those who have not tasted his superbly creative bad taste are traitors.’ Sounds like a back-handed compliment, but coming from Dali, that’s high praise indeed. He spoke of the Sagrada Família, admiring its “terrifying and edible beauty,” suggesting it be kept under a glass dome to preserve this weirdly stunning edifice. Surrealists clearly see eye to melting eye.

Well, it doesn’t really matter who liked Antoni Gaudi or who didn’t! Because a lot of his works are actually considered UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Do you know how many?

A) 16
B) 2
C) 7

Image Credit: Reddit

C) 7

Seven properties built by the architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926) in or near Barcelona testify to Gaudí’s exceptional creative contribution to the development of architecture and building technology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These monuments represent an eclectic, as well as a very personal, style which was given free reign in the design of gardens, sculpture and all decorative arts, as well as architecture. The seven buildings are: Parque Güell; Palacio Güell; Casa Mila; Casa Vicens; Gaudí’s work on the Nativity façade and Crypt of La Sagrada Familia; Casa Batlló; Crypt in Colonia Güell.

And to top it all off… He lived a pretty sad life. He was always sick when he was alive, living with rheumatism and having to shorten his diet due to his many physical ailments. He also was very misunderstood and had a pretty eclectic personality. He would dress as a dandy, and order from the best gourmet restaurants in Spain, and arriving to his sites in a horse-drawn chariot… Over the top right? But he still lived life to an extreme. In his later years, he would actually dress horribly. He died in a horrific way.

What was he mistaken for in his last years of life?

A) A soldier
B) A beggar
C) A doctor

Image Credit: Dosde

B) A beggar

He was often mistaken for a beggar, which ultimately led to his death. The young Gaudí was a stylish young man, dressing in expensive suits, touting a strong hair game, and gallivanting about turn-of-the-century Barcelona. Unfortunately, like most people, he slowly changed as the years passed. A series of hardships – from deaths of loved ones to economic hard times to work troubles – eventually made the one-time man-about-town into a frugal homebody who neglected his wardrobe. He was struck by a tram on one of his daily walks and didn’t receive much medical attention until the next day when the chaplain of the Sagrada Família identified him as the famous architect he was. By that time, his injuries had progressed past salvage, and he ultimately passed away three days later. Why was he ignored for so long? People mistook the shabbily dressed man for a beggar.

And that is exactly why he is known for living life to two complete extremes. Whatever the case may be, he is still one of the most important architects to our culture. Clearly, there is more to this mastermind than meets the eye. Though Gaudí was a deeply troubled man who lacked any real personal life, he devoted himself fully to his works which are now recognized worldwide and have since brought him great professional success and notoriety.

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