One of Barcelona’s most prolific names, architect Antoni Gaudí is synonymous with the city. His distinctive style can be seen all over Barcelona, with influences from nature and religion. But, how much do we know about the man behind the buildings? We’ve scoured the history books to find some awesome facts about Gaudí that you should know!
On 7 June 1926, the famed Barcelona architect was hit by a tram while strolling around. As he made less effort to groom himself and dress up in his later years, he tended to look quite ragged was mistaken for a beggar so he didn’t receive the medical attention he required. It wasn’t until a member of the Sagrada Familia identified him that he finally was seen to, but it was already too late.
Antoni Gaudí was commissioned by the Sagrada Familia to create a gigantic cathedral and while he passed away before its completion, it remains his most impressive work to date. He dropped many other projects in order to focus on the cathedral (which was later deemed a Basilica by Pope Benedict XVI), which incorporates biblical imagery, a keen consideration of natural forms and is designed to look like an intimate wood.
Public opinion turned against Gaudí once construction began on the Sagrada Familia and that included Picasso, who once vehemently said, “Send Gaudí and the Sagrada Familia to hell.” George Orwell echoed similar sentiments while he was fighting in The Spanish Revolution and came to Barcelona, calling it “one of the most hideous buildings in the world”.
Despite his later success in life, Gaudí wasn’t a very good student and his work divided his teachers at the Escola Tecnica D’Arquitectura. It took several years before he was recognised as a professional architect by them and as the director Elies Rogent signed the documentation, he said “Who knows if we have given this diploma to a nut or genius? Only time will telll.”
Gaudí’s distinctive style continues to captivate travellers and particularly architecture-lovers from all over the world, with many of his UNESCO World Heritage works now open to the public. Casa Milá, Casa Battló, Colonia Güell (where his crypt is) and the Sagrada Familia can be explored, with the latter unveiling new areas to visit as construction continues.
After Catalan identity had been eroded by governmental figures in Madrid, there was a resurgence of Catalan literature, art and design in the early 19th century in response. This expression of patriotism through the arts made him prominent Catalan figure and he even considered going into politics at one point.
After many of his close family members and friends passed away in the early 1900s, Gaudí dedicated himself to his work – dropping all other projects and even moving into the crypt of the Sagrada Familia, his final project. As he became increasingly anti-social, he also began to let his appearance go and began to be mistaken for a beggar, which contributed to his death.
While some of Gaudí’s sketches survive, he would usually create three dimensional scaled models of of his works to get a sense of the space and to build upon his designs. It was only when he was absolutely required to create sketches for the authorities that he would produce them, but with much reluctance.
Led by architect Jose Manuel Almuzara, the Association for the Beatification of Antoni Gaudí proposed to Pope Francis that Antoni Gaudí should be made a saint. While he has been named a Servant of God and Sagrada Familia is recognised as a Basilica, the process is complicated by the fact that he was not a martyr or performed a miracle which qualify a person for sainthood.
Towards the end of his career, Gaudí became increasingly religious and dedicated himself to more charitable efforts. These included the construction of numerous schools for workers’ children, some of which can be seen beside the Sagrada Familia.