The life of genius

Antoni Gaudí i Cornet was a Catalan architect who has become internationally recognised as one of the most prodigious experts in his discipline, as well as one of the top exponents of modernism. His exceptional ground-breaking genius made him the inventor of a unique, personal and incomparable architectural language that defies classification.

Childhood of Antoni Gaudí

Antoni Gaudí was born on the 25th of June 1852 in Reus, according to some biographers, although others claim that he was born in Riudoms, a small village near Reus where his family spent their summers. He came from a family of boilermakers, a fact that allowed the young Gaudí to acquire a special skill for working with space and volume as he helped his father and grandfather in the family workshop. His talent for designing spaces and transforming materials grew and prospered until it eventually metamorphosed into a veritable genius for three-dimensional creation.

El Mas de la Calderera, Ruidoms

La Can Pairal, Ruidoms

As a child, Gaudí’s health was delicate, which meant that he was obliged to spend long periods of time resting at the summer house in Riudoms. There, he passed many an hour contemplating and storing up in his mind the secrets of nature, which he thought of as his supreme mistress and ultimate teacher of the highest knowledge, being the crowning achievement of the Creator.

As such, Antoni Gaudí found the essence and the meaning of architecture by following the very patterns of nature and by always respecting its laws.He did not copy it, but rather traced its course through a process of cooperation, and in that context he created the most beautiful, sustainable and effective work possible through his architecture. Gaudí himself once said: “originality consists of going back to the origins.”

Architectural studies

In 1870 he moved to Barcelona to pursue his academic career in architecture, at the same time working at various jobs to enable him to pay for his studies. He was an inconsistent student, but he was already showing some evidence of brilliance that opened doors for him, allowing him to collaborate with some of his professors. When he completed his studies at the School of Architecture in 1878 the Director, Elies Rogent, declared: “I do not know if we have awarded this degree to a madman or to a genius; only time will tell.” Undeniably, however, the young architect’s ideas were not a mere repetition of things that had already been done up to that time, nor could anybody receive them with indifference.

I do not know if we have awarded this degree to a madman or to a genius; only time will tell.

Above and beyond his relationship with Güell, Gaudí received many commissions and proposed numerous projects. Many of these, fortunately, were transformed into reality, but some never made it off paper.

Portrait of Antoni Gaudí

Document of Escuela de Arquitectura

During his mature period, masterpieces followed one after another: the Bellesguard Tower, Park Güell, the restoration of Mallorca Cathedral, the church on the Güell Estate, Casa Batlló, La Pedrera, and lastly, the Church of the Sagrada Familia.

Surprisingly, the magnificence of Antoni Gaudí’s architecture coincided, as the result of a personal decision by the architect, with a progressive withdrawal by the man himself. Gaudí, who in his youth had frequented theatres, concerts and tertulias (social gatherings), went from being a young dandy with gourmet tastes to neglecting his personal appearance, eating frugally and distancing himself from social life, while simultaneously devoting himself ever more fervently to a religious and mystical sentiment.

The final goodbye

Antonio Gaudí’s funeral procession through the streets of Barcelona

Gaudí died on the 10th of June 1926 after being knocked down by a tram while making his way, as he did every evening, to the Sagrada Família from the Church of Sant Felip Neri. After being struck he lost consciousness, and nobody suspected that this dishevelled old man who was not carrying any identity papers was the famous architect. He was taken to the Santa Cruz Hospital, where he was later recognised by the Priest of the Sagrada Família. He was buried two days later in that very church, following a funeral attended by throngs of people: most of the citizens of Barcelona came out to bid a final farewell to the most universal architect that the city had ever known.