Bright Side

20+ Facts About the Genius Modernist, Antoni Gaudí, Who Disliked Straight Lines All His Life

It’s really hard to imagine modern Barcelona without the creations of Antoni Gaudí. His buildings seem to have come from the pages of fantasy stories. And the Sagrada Família, which has remained unfinished for 138 years, is the true symbol of the city. The life of the architect himself was quite difficult as he experienced loss, bad luck, and illness. But because he loved art, he always managed to stay afloat.

There are many intriguing legends about Gaudí’s peculiarities, so Bright Side learned more about the life of Antoni Gaudí and wants to share the most interesting facts we found about this prominent architect.

  • The future architect was born in 1852 to the family of Francisco Gaudí Serra and Antonia Cornet Bertrán. He was the fifth child in the family. None of his brothers or sisters lived longer than 35 years, and 2 of them died in early childhood. But Gaudí himself lived for 73 years, leaving a huge mark that would forever change the way Barcelona looked.

  • As a boy he had trouble with his health — he suffered from rheumatism, so instead of playing with friends, he spent his free time watching the nature of the Mediterranean, observing how the clouds would move, and how the grass would sway in the wind. Gaudí noticed all the little details in everything. Sometimes, he was so weak that he couldn’t walk, so he had to get around on a donkey.

  • Both his mother and his father were from families of metalsmiths. Living in an area that was excellent for wine production, they worked to create the boilers, serpentines, and stills that were used in this process. So later, Gaudí often said that the constant memories of cauldrons and serpentines brought out a habit of thinking in 3 dimensions. These spiral and buckled forms had a big impact on his art.

The Casa Miralles entrance

  • The first time Gaudí tried to get into architecture school, he failed. He had to pass 3 exams: one on the French language, one on drawing figures, and another on drawing buildings in watercolor. As strange as it sounds, the creator of Sagrada Família failed his last exam.

  • In Barcelona, Gaudí was an active participant in cultural events, including those involving literature and philosophy, as well as scientific gatherings — he was interested in everything. The young man walked a lot on foot and was inspired by the look of Catalonia.

  • The famous architect needed 5 years of hard work to finally make his dream come true and enter architecture school. In 1878, at the age of 25, Gaudí finally got his degree and became a professional architect.

  • While studying, Gaudí worked as a draftsman for experienced architects Emiliano Sala and Francisco del Villar. At the same time, he did some small jobs (like with lanterns and fences), designed furniture, and took part in competitions.

An Antoni Gaudí street lamp in Barcelona

  • In his younger years, Gaudí was a true dandy with sky-blue eyes. He dressed in expensive suits, wore kid gloves and silk-woven top hats, had a collection of scarves, and often went to theaters and operas. And when he got his first bout of scholarship money, he bought a golden watch to tell people it was a family heirloom, in order to become part of high society in Barcelona.

  • However, Gaudí had trouble with shoes. He couldn’t wear new boots and asked his brother to stretch them out for him, but after his brother died, he asked his students to stretch his shoes using hammers.

  • The architect was energetic and kind, even though he tried to hide behind this powerful façade. After he got rejected a couple of times by his crushes, he dedicated all his energy to architecture.

  • In 1883, Gaudí’s first big project began, which is known as Casa Vicens. The architect literally lived on the construction site and controlled the process, making the workers rebuild the parts he didn’t like. All the rooms were to be completely deconstructed.

Casa Vicens

  • The year 1883 became a turning point in Gaudí’s career. That year, he met Eusebi Güell, who became his friend and his patron. Money and talent met to change the look of Barcelona.

  • The genius architect was a perfectionist and he hated ordinary solutions (which is obvious from his art). There’s a legend that says when the mosaic bench in Park Güell was being built, the artist asked the workers to sit on the fresh cement to make the bench as comfortable as possible. They nearly lost their pants.

Park Güell

  • This genius man saw the world differently, not only metaphorically, but also quite literally. Antoni Gaudí had different eyes: one of them was far-sighted, and the other one was near-sighted. He didn’t like glasses, so he didn’t wear them. He said that the Greeks were great builders and they didn’t wear any glasses.
  • In 1883, he was tasked with building Sagrada Família. And at the same time, he also worked on other smaller projects like the Episcopal Palace of Astorga, Park Güell, Casa Calvet, among others. And the funny Casa Batlló and Casa Milà served as a visual for the hatred the architect had toward straight lines.
  • Casa Milà was really innovative for its time. Gaudí wanted to build ramps so that the inhabitants could drive right up to their apartments, even on the higher floors. But the idea was rejected and the ramps transformed into the first underground parking lot.
  • Gaudí wasn’t involved in the Sagrada Família project from the very beginning, but in the first stage, he made some changes to Villar’s project. Together, with the help of his creative nature, the look of the future cathedral also changed. He spent more than 4 decades of his life on it, turning down good contracts in Paris and New York. So the building we see now is very different from what it was supposed to look like at the beginning.
  • Gaudí used sandbags to make the model of the cathedral. Only years later did researchers connect the dots and realize it was a 3D model of the building.
  • The architect borrowed the geometric shapes of the columns of the cathedral from nature. If you look at the arches, you’ll notice that they’re reminiscent of tree branches with sunshine coming through. And on the outside of the building, you can see more than 100 plants and animals.

  • All the figures on the facade of the cathedral are done in their natural size. Gaudí wanted to make casts of living people but decided to look for volunteers that would be models for sculptures. That being said, the guard of the cathedral turned into Judas, the grandson of one of the workers became baby Jesus, and a big plasterer became David.

  • The unique architecture of the building garnered very mixed reviews. Some called it a stone forest, a gingerbread house of an old witch, and even a termite nest. George Orwell thought it was one of the most disgusting buildings in the world, but Salvador Dalí said that it was scary beautiful.

  • Gaudí was a strict vegetarian. Over time, his lifestyle became more and more ascetic. For lunch, he would just eat a couple of lettuce leaves soaked in milk. Once, he almost died of not eating enough and he started to eat well only after a priest reminded him about his mission of building Sagrada Família. But Gaudí thought that water was the best food.

  • One peculiar thing about him is that he liked to carry a raw egg in his pants. Gaudí was amazed by the perfect shape of eggs and was sure that the shell was really strong.

  • In his final years, Gaudí didn’t communicate with people much and almost never left his workshop except for the times when he needed to find money to keep the construction of his projects going.

  • In June 1926, Gaudí was hit by a tram and the taxi drivers didn’t want to take him to the hospital because they didn’t recognize the genius architect. In the hospital where he was finally taken, he came to his senses and knew that his days were numbered. After around 3 days he died, but the pieces of art he created are still in Barcelona to this day, and millions of tourists from around the world come to see them.

Do you like the amazing works of Antoni Gaudí?

Preview photo credit Album / Prisma / EAST NEWS
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