I have recently been introduced to Antonio Gaudi, 79 years after a trolley car ended his life in Barcelona, also the city of his architectural birth. Gaudi’s physical introduction to the world was in 1852 in the city of Rues, not too far from Barcelona on Spain’s Mediterranean coast.
The sixteen year old left his home for Barcelona with his pursuits set on learning architecture. His arrival met the beginnings of the anarchist revolution and Spain’s Renaixenca, which no doubt helped to create Gaudi’s emergence as the notable child of Art Nouveau and Modernism. Forms from the natural world permeate Gaudi’s work, as if the concept of a right angle was missed on him, beautifully becoming stair spirals emulating shells and columned spires imitating caves’ stalactites.
His contempt for 90 degrees inevitably forced his use of broken tiles and ceramic, keeping costs down and creating some of his most intricate and beautiful finishes. His creations sometimes seem alien and otherworldly, and viewing it reminds me of the Canyonlands in Utah’s desert. The overwhelming evocation of spiritualness in Gaudian shapes mixed with his known mysticism provokes me to ponder, with whom was he communing?
‘Men are divided into two categories: men of words and men of action. The former talk, the latter act. I belong to the second group. I lack the means of expressing myself. I could not tell you about the concept of art. I need to give it a concrete form. I have never had the time to question myself. I have spent my time working…Like everything human, I am incomplete…’
Gaudi’s most famous work, Sagrada Familia, is also incomplete. Over a century after her birth, the famous temple still evolves.