Antoni Gaudi, born in 1952, was one of the greatest architects in Europe who represented Catalan Modernism. His works are seen as revolutionary and eclectic using techniques prevalent in modern 20th-century architecture. He received his architectural training and education from the Barcelona Higher School of Architecture where his instructors spotted some evidence of his brilliance.
Gaudi’s Architectural style travelled through many different phases. He went from Victorianism to more geometric and patterned architecture, but after 1902, his design style went far from conventional. Antoni Gaudi’s architectural excellence is remarkable for its range of shapes, textures, art, and expression.
Take a look at the evolution of Gaudi’s design style through the first and last structures designed by him.
Nau Gaudi, designed at the end of the 19th-century, was one of the first projects taken on by Antoni Gaudi in the coastal town of Mataro. His professional relationship with industrialist Salvador Pages led to a commissioned project for the local textile workers’ co-op while he was still a student.
Pages commissioned Gaudi with the design of an industrial complex building with social facilities and housing for the members of the Mataro Workers Cooperative, a society founded in 1864.
Antoni Gaudi collaborated with local architect Emili Cabanyes and integrated the pre-existing buildings with the newly conceptualized buildings that included thirty single-family dwellings, a school, a library, a social club, and a head office for the cooperative. But only a small part of the complex was actually built—two dwellings, a latrine building, and a cotton bleaching shed built in 1883.
The bleaching shed, Gaudi’s first industrial project was built on thirteen slender parabolic arches made using small lengths of wood pieces fixed together with bolts, a model designed by Philibert de l’Orme, the French Renaissance architect. The arches allowed Gaudi to create large span open spaces without pillars or columns for structural support. From this point, parabolic arches became a key feature in most of Gaudi’s works.
In this project, he created a space that was original and modern in a way that enhances the beauty of the structural form as well as its materiality consisting of wood, brick, and iron.
A few feet away from the bleaching shed is the latrine pavilion, the oldest building of the entire complex. It was designed as a small cylindrical structure divided into two halves to separate the latrines.
The design of the roof takes the form of an elevated vault, providing ventilation by a siphon system. He uses the same ventilation system in the design of the Vicens House and in the stables of the Guell Estate eventually. Decorative elements used to enhance ornamentation are glazed ceramic tiles and speed pediments which are seen in many of Gaudi’s later projects.
With the textile industry’s eventual decline, the Nau Gaudi fell into disrepair until refurbishment work started in 2002. It now serves as an art gallery displaying modern Catalan art and other private collections.
The Sagrada Familia, arguably one of Antoni Gaudi’s most famous works, began construction in 1882 and is still under construction with estimated completion in 2026. Gaudi devoted his final years to the project until he died in 1926 when only a quarter of the project was completed.
The Sagrada Familia is a Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, Spain which is now registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the prevailing architectural style for churches was Gothic Architecture and the construction fell into the Art Nouveau period, Gaudi maintained the Latin cross plan but strayed away from the Gothic style in many ways and pushed the rules of the Art Nouveau style.
He used a system of angled columns, hyperboloids, parabolas, conoids, and helicoids. These silhouettes allowed for a petite structure and enhanced the acoustics and the quality of natural daylighting.
Gaudi was inspired by the idea of a forest-like structure to create a hierarchical system to support a light and airy vault. The paraboloids linked the columns, vaults, and the roof while the twisted columns were made to achieve higher stability while being slender. These columns along with hyperboloidal vaults eliminate the need for flying buttresses.
The materiality of the building includes various forms of stone such as sandstone and granite along with reinforced cement concrete for the nave. A traditional Catalonian construction technique using three layers of tiles or bricks that are set together using mortar is used for the vaulting. This makes the structure highly resistant. The skylights and rosettes are built using green and gold glass and tiles and a stained glass element is featured on the apse.
The original design by Gaudi consisted of 18 towers that signify different things and the central tower was designed to reach a height of 72 meters tall. The central nave is flanked by aisles forming a Latin Cross and its three facades, the Nativity Facade, the Passion Facade, and the Glory Facade, all represent Christ’s birth, his suffering, and his glory.
After Gaudi’s death and the destruction of his workshop during the Spanish Civil War, much of the building’s documentation was destroyed. The next generation of architects and engineers relied on his old models to continue with the construction of the Sagrada Familia.
Today, the construction of Sagrada Familia heavily relies on a digital design that ensures better visualization and faster construction to reach the projected completion date in 2026.