Monday, June 13, 2011

The most famous Barcelona’s artist

Antoni Gaudi is Barcelona’s best known architect and one of the foremost modernist architects of all time. Barcelona is the ideal place to visit to see his work because it is all around you and is one of the reason why Barcelona is a popular tourist destination.

Barcelona’s best know modernist architect, Antoni Gaudi, was born Antoni Plàcid Guillem Gaudí
i Cornet on 25th June, 1852 in Tarragona, a province of southern Catalonia. There is some controversy as to his birthplace, which has been stated as Reus on his birth certificate, but many claim it to have been Riudoms, which is a small village close by. Irrespective of this, he was certainly baptized in Reus on the day after his birth. The families of both his mother and father were coppersmiths.

He was a weak child, said to be suffering from rheumatic fever, and was consequently isolated from other children for long periods. It has been suggested that this could be the reason for his eccentricity and that the long periods that he spent alone with nature was why he was so interested in the natural themes and shapes that appeared in his architecture.

He studied architecture at the Escola Tècnica Superior d’Arquitectura, Barcelona’s famous architectural school, and his unconventional designs promoted his professor to comment “Who knows if we have given this diploma to a crazy person or a genius. Only time will tell”, as he signed his diploma qualifying Gaudi as an architect. He started up his own architectural business, and his first commission was to design the lampposts for a square in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona known as the Plaça Reial, where they stand to this day.
His peers would have nothing to with him at the beginning, failing to understand his creativity and believing that his style was too unconventional. His sole supporter at that time was Eusebi Güell, a wealthy industrialist who through time became his patron and friend. He commissioned a number of works from Gaudi, including Park Güel and Palau Güell that enabled him to make his name. Although Gaudi’s architectural style has been associated with surrealism, art nouveau and Gothicism, he is known as the foremost Spanish modernist architect of his day.

Other major architectural commissions undertaken by Gaudi included Casa Milà, Casa Batlló, Casa Calvet and Casa Vicens. The last mentioned was built for a tile and brick manufacturer, Manuel Vicens, and was appropriately fashioned from stone, red brick and colorful tiles. This was built between 1883 and 1889, and one of his more conventional designs, built later between 1899 and 1904, was Casa Calvet that was designed for a textile manufacturer of the same name.
The first two of the above works are visited more than most other Gaudi buildings in Barcelona, and the Casa Milà is also known as La Pedrera (Catalan for ‘the Quarry’). It was built between 1906 and 1910, and both are situated in the Eixample district of Barcelona, in the Passeig de Gràcia.
However, most of his time was spent on one individual building: a catholic church built from private funds known as the Sagrada Família. The original architect of this church had resigned, and Gaudi took it over in 1883. He spent a lot of time on it, and in 1911 finally abandoned all his other projects to work exclusively on the Sagrada Família. He was a devout Roman catholic, which likely influenced him greatly.

The Sagrada Família was the last project of his life, and while he working on it he experienced two great tragedies. First, his devoted niece whom he loved (in a family sense), Rosa Egea, died in 1912, and then his patron, Eusebi Güell, died four years later. Gaudi’s final years were spent as a recluse, and in his last year he lived in the crypt of the Sagrada Família. He died in 1926, five days after being run over by a tram in Barcelona.
He looked so disheveled after his accident that taxi drivers refused to take him to hospital because they thought him to be a beggar. It was only when he was visited by his friends the following day that his identity became known, but he refused to leave the beggars hospital saying that he belonged ‘among the poor’. He was 73 years old when he died, and his body was interred in the crypt of his beloved Sagrada Família.
Many of Gaudi’s architectural works have received awards, but as is often the case, mostly after his death. Although the Casa Calvet had been given the 1900 Building of the Year Award by Barcelona, it was not till 1969 that a number of his buildings were given recognition as Historic-Artist Monuments of National Interest. Three of his works were named World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1984, namely, Parque Güell, Palau Güell, and Casa Milà.

The influence of Antoni Gaudi on architecture around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries cannot be overestimated, and he is widely looked upon as one of the most influential architects ever. As often happens, his talent was not universally acknowledged until well after his death, and even the authorities of his own city of Barcelona attempted to manacle him under the pretext that he failed to observe proper codes and regulations. His beautiful way of bucking the trend can be seen throughout the city of Barcelona, and he needs no monuments because as he said himself: “Artists do not need monuments erected for them because their works are their monuments”.
One last word: if you intend visiting Barcelona to be thrilled by the works of this great architect, you will need somewhere to stay. There are many Barcelona holiday apartments available in the area where most of Gaudi’s works can be seen and visited. However, make sure that you book yours well in advance because the Barcelona holiday apartments in this area are very popular.

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