Editorial Feature

Discover The Unique Architecture of Antoni Gaudi

Take a tour of 11 of the architect's most well-known buildings 

Antoni Gaudi was a Spanish architect and is the best practitioner of Catalan Modernism, a movement focused on the reclaiming of Catalan identity through various avenues of arts and culture. Gaudi’s style was also influenced by Neo-Gothic art, Oriental techniques and the decorative style of Art Nouveau architecture, which led to elaborate and ostentatious designs.

Gaudi’s work was driven by his passions: architecture, nature and religion. Every detail of his buildings was carefully thought through and he made sure to include crafts such as ceramics, stained glass, wrought ironwork and carpentry. He also introduced new techniques in terms of his use of materials, like trencadís, which used waste ceramic pieces.

Most of his buildings can be found in Barcelona and seven of his projects are now declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Here we take a tour of some of Gaudi’s most known and unique works, all with the help Street View.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, 1882-present

Sagrada Familia, is a huge unfinished Roman Catholic church in Barcelona and probably Gaudi's most instantly recognizable building. Construction on the project started in 1882 under the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar. He resigned in 1883 and Gaudi took over as chief architect, completely transforming the project into his style, which combined Gothic and Art Nouveau forms. Gaudi dedicated his life to the project and at the time of his death age 73 in 1926, less than a quarter of the building was actually complete.

The reasons behind the delay lie mainly in the fact the project has relied solely on private donations. Advancements in technology have sped construction along and in 2010 the project passed the midway point. The building’s greatest challenge remains the construction of ten more spires, each symbolizing an important biblical figure in the New Testament. It is said the building will be completed by 2026, the centenary of Gaudi’s death.

Park Güell, Barcelona, 1900-1914

Based in Barcelona, Park Güell is a public park system composed of gardens and architectonic elements on Carmel Hill. Gaudi was commissioned to design the park upon the request of Count Eusebi Güell, who wanted to build a stylish park for the aristocrats of Barcelona. The park was built between 1900 and 1914 and was officially opened in 1926.

The park demonstrates Gaudi’s artistic excess at this time. During the first decade of the 20th century, the architect perfected his personal style and was inspired by organic shapes. Curved stone columns were used as well as local brick and stone to preserve the natural feeling of the landscape. A highlight are the structures that rise up from the ground like trees and the mosaic decoration covering walls, benches and ornaments.

Casa Milà, Barcelona, 1906-1912

The Casa Milà was the last private residence designed by Gaudi and was built between 1906 and 1912. The building is nicknamed, ‘La Pedrera’ (The Stone Quarry), a reference to its rough, undulating appearance.

The building is divided into nine levels and on the roof is the famous sculpture terrace. Practically, this structure houses skylights, emergency stairs, fans and chimneys, but each of these functions have a sculptural quality that becomes a part of the building. The stone facade has no load bearing function, instead steel beams with the same curvature support the facade’s weight by attaching to the structure. This allowed Gaudi to design the facade without structural constraints and form a continuous organic geometry.

Casa Batlló, Barcelona, 1904-1906

Casa Batlló is said to be one of Gaudi’s masterpieces and is a remodel of a previously built house. The architect redesigned the dwelling in 1904 and the local name for the building is ‘Casa dels Ossos’ (House of Bones), because of his skeletal, organic quality.

The building combines animal shapes, vine-like curves, hints of bone and skeleton combined with glistening colored bits of glazed ceramics and glass. This is another example of Art Nouveau architecture, a School of French decorative artists from the 1890s who took influence from sinuous shapes in plants and nature. As with many of Gaudi’s projects, there is recurring religious imagery. Embedded and semi-concealed in the building are religious images and texts planted in the upper levels of the building, as well as in the small details around the facade.

Casa Vicens, Barcelona, 1877-1888

Completed in 1888, Casa Vicens in Barcelona is the first residential property designed by Gaudi and is considered one of the first examples of Art Nouveau architecture. What makes this building unique is the combination of styles on top of Art Nouveau, including oriental, neoclassical and especially Moorish with the decorated domes. Using a mix of materials was also important to Gaudi, such as iron, glass, ceramic tiles and concrete.

In this building Gaudi demonstrates his break from tradition and Casa Vicens represents a new chapter in Catalan architecture, as well as the start of Gaudi’s success, who was just 31 when he received the commission from stockbroker Manel Vicens i Montaner. For more than 130 years it remained a private residence. But in 2017, the UNESCO World Heritage Site opened as a museum to the public after being bought by the Spanish bank in 2015.

Church of Colònia crypt, Barcelona, 1889

The Church of Colònia Guell is an unfinished work by Gaudi built in 1889. It was built as a place of worship for the people in a manufacturing suburb near Barcelona. Colònia Güell was the brainchild of Count Eusebi de Güell; however, with Güell losing profits from his business, the money was depleted and only the crypt was completed.

In 2000, local architects set about repairing the crypt. While this took away aspects of the unfinished nature of the buildings, it did make a more tourist-friendly structure, and now visitors can stand on the roof, which would have been the church floor.

College of the Teresians, Barcelona, 1888-1890

Located in the neighborhood of Sant Gervasi in Barcelona, the College of the Teresians was a project carried out between 1888 and 1890. Like with the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi took on this project while it was already in progress. The time constraints meant Gaudi had to harness his imagination and create a new vision in just two years.

The building consists of a lower floor plus three stories on a rectangular plane. On the lower and first levels are classrooms and offices, while bedrooms for the nuns and students are located on the two upper two floors. The building’s aesthetic is inspired by the Neo-Gothic movement specifically the ideas of French architect Viollet-le-Duc. The style saw a revival of medieval Gothic architecture, including elements like decorative patterns, finials, lancet windows, hood moulds and label stops.

Portal Miralles, Barcelona, 1901-1902

Although not quite a building, this entrance gateway is a minor work in Gaudi’s architectural portfolio but it still highlights his style and the architectural solutions that he applied to every project he undertook. Gaudi was tasked with creating the entrance gateway that led to a house built by fellow architect Domènec Sugrañes.

The most notable feature is the undulating wall. Made of mortared stone, it is adorned with white trencadís mosaic and on top of that there’s a chain-like grill that looks similar to a fishing net topped with spikes. The commission came from industrialist Ermenegild Miralles and Gaudi had fun experimenting in Miralles’ workshop, which allowed him to test materials.

Episcopal Palace, Léon, 1889-1915

The Episcopal Palace of Astorga was built between 1889 and 1913 and is in the Catalan Modernism style that Gaudi popularized. This is one of only three buildings by Gaudi outside Catalonia. When the original Episcopal Palace was destroyed by a fire in the 19th century, Bishop Grau asked his friend Gaudi to design the new building.

The building is built in gray granite from El Bierzo and is in a neo-medieval style that blends in with its location close to the cathedral. However, the arches of the entrance with buttresses and the chimneys integrated in the side facades are more typical of Gaudi’s later work. The palace was fully completed between 1907 and 1915, despite the design being approved in 1889. Delays came from disagreements Gaudi had with the local council after Bishop Grau’s death in 1893.

Torre Bellesguard, Barcelona, 1900-1909

The Bellesguard house, built between 1900 and 1909, uses rectilinear forms (shapes composed of straight lines and angular corners), rarely seen in Gaudi’s other work. The architect’s inspiration was the medieval castle of Martin I, also known as Martin the Humane, the last king of the Catalan dynasty of the House of Barcelona, who resided at Bellesguard until 1410. Gaudi’s castle is a blend of Art Nouveau and Gothic style and allowed the architect to restore the ruins of the medieval palace, which are now part of the estate’s grounds.

Casa Botines, León, 1891-1892

The Casa Botines, built from 1891 to 1892, is a Modernist building in León, which was adapted to serve as the headquarters of Caja España, a local savings bank. While Gaudí was finishing the construction of the Episcopal Palace of Astorga, his friend and patron, Eusebi Güell recommended that he build a house in the center of León. Simón Fernández and Mariano Andrés, the owners of a company that bought fabrics from Güell, commissioned Gaudí to build a residential building with a warehouse. The house's nickname comes from the last name of the company's former owner, Joan Homs i Botinàs.

With the Casa Botines, Gaudí wanted to pay tribute to León's emblematic buildings. Therefore, he designed a building with a medieval air and numerous Neo-Gothic characteristics. The building consists of four floors, a basement and an attic. Gaudí chose an inclined roof and placed towers in the corners to reinforce the project's Neo-Gothic feel. To ventilate and illuminate the basement, he created a moat around two of the façades, a technique he would repeat at the Sagrada Família in Barcelona.

Credits: All media
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