Do you know Antoni Gaudí’s personal history?

Antoni Gaudí i Cornet was born on 25 June 1852 in Camp de Tarragona. Some sources say in Reus, where he was baptised, and others at the house in Riudoms, the neighbouring village, where his family came from. His father and both his grandparents were boilermakers, and as Gaudí himself recounted, he learned his special skill in dealing with three-dimensional space by observing boilermakers at work.

As a child, Gaudi’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.

After starting his secondary education at the Escolapian School in Reus, Antoni Gaudí moved to Barcelona in 1869 with his older brother. He completed his schooling and after meeting the entrance requirements in 1873 enrolled in the Provincial School of Architecture.

After gaining his architect’s diploma in January 1878, Gaudí set up his own firm. Some months later he was introduced to industrialist Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi, with whom he struck up a lifelong friendship and professional relationship. Many of Gaudí’s works were commissioned by Güell, his most enthusiastic client.

In the final decades of the nineteenth century when he completed the Güell Palace he was already one of the most famous architects in Barcelona. This work saw the end of Gaudí’s first youthful phase, marked by a personal revision of Gothic and Muslim architecture and including buildings like Casa Vicens, El Capricho, the Güell Estate buildings, the crypt of the Sagrada Familia, the School of the Teresianas and the Episcopal Palace in Astorga.

From 1890 onwards Gaudí perfected his understanding of architectural space and the applied arts, giving his work unique and unsuspected qualities that stood out from the other Modernist architecture of his day. These were Gaudí’s mature years in which a succession of master works appeared: Bellesguard Villa, Park Güell, the restoration of Mallorca Cathedral, the church of the Colònia Güell, Casa Batlló, La Pedrera, and the Nativity façade of the Sagrada Familia.

However, the splendour of Gaudí’s architecture coincided with a progressive withdrawal in personal matters. While he increasingly disengaged from social life his religious feelings deepened.

In 1914 he abandoned all other work to concentrate on the Sagrada Familia. Aware that he would not live to see it completed, he did his best to leave it at an advanced stage for coming generations. In fact, Gaudí was only to see one of its towers in its final form.

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.

 

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