When studying architecture, Antoni Gaudí began to collaborate with his professors as a draftsman doing dozens of projects. The beginning of his professional career coincides with the arrival of the electric light to Barcelona (the first large power station dates from 1883), and he first stood out as a public and private illumination designer, taking care of the different squares’ lighting: two examples of that work are Pla de Palau and Plaza Real(1879). In this first stage, Gaudí became a popular architect and decorator, carrying out different projects for laboral cooperatives, movie theaters, bars and restaurants, as well as the furniture, lamps and shop windows design.
The first great project of Gaudí was the Casa Vicens (1883-1888), clearly influenced by oriental architecture, which fascinated the architect at a time when Arab salons proliferated in the city. With Casa Vicens, Gaudí overcomes the influence of his professors, who communed with historicism and romanticism.
1883, a key year
It was precisely a professor of Gaudí, Joan Martorell, who introduced him to Eusebi Güell in 1883, an outstanding figure of the Catalan bourgeoisie, who ended up being his main patron. Thanks to Eusebi he designed works that continued his oriental stage, for example El Capricho (1883-1885), and finished doing some of his most famous works such as Finca Güell and Palau Güell (between 1883 and 1890) , later named by Park Güell and the Crypt of the Colònia Güell (1900-1914).
Interestingly, the same day that Gaudí met Eusebi, Joan Martorell offered him to continue the work of the Sagrada Familia, a project which before that was directed by one of his professors, Francisco del Villar. Without a doubt, that day changed the life of Antoni Gaudí.
Fullness of the artist
Thus continued the prolific career of Gaudí, in which he worked mainly for the Catalan bourgeoisie, which returned from Cuba with money after Spain lost the island in 1898. In this way a wealthy bourgeoisie, with the desire to demonstrate its status, and one of the first generations of architects in the city coincided in time, giving birth to Catalan modernism inspired by, among others, Catholicism and nature. Casa Calvet (1898-1900) is also related to his early period, it is the most conservative of Gaudí’s works made in Baroque style.
Then there was the Casa Batlló (1904-1906), the only 100% modernist work by Gaudí and one of the greatest exponents worldwide, a work inspired by the Mediterranean Sea, made in the fullness of the artist and with total creative freedom. In this case, Gaudí completely reformed the building which, curiously, had also projected another professor of his, Emilio Sala. This period of his career ends with Casa Milà (1906-1912), conceived more as a modern than modernist style, with which Gaudí closed a stage and ended his collaboration with the bourgeoisie due to their disagreements because of this work.
From 1912 until his death in 1926, Gaudí abandoned all his work and focused only on the Sagrada Familia construction, a project he had been working on for 30 years. There, in the temple, he set his proper studio to live in, in one of the most humble neighbourhoods, immersing himself completely in his work and an ascetic life. Thus, this profoundly Catholic man who began his career as the architect of the town and working for the bourgeoisie, ended up becoming what some define as “the architect of God”.