October 12, 2014


Gaudí, an inspiration to architects--and a famous chef : A conference on the designer, alternately called a madman and a genius, is taking place in Barcelona (Alessandro Allemandi and María Marin, 08 October 2014, The Art Newspaper)

Every one of Gaudí's project respects the natural scale of its surroundings: the Colònia Güell church in the middle of a forrest has tree-shaped columns, while the height of the Sagrada Familia approaches, but does not overtop, that of Montjuic, the highest hill in Barcelona. 

The rediscovered documents also reveal his extraordinary capacity as a manager. Gaudí was convinced of the value of the human capital at his disposal and collaborated closely with his builders. The large number of commissions he received and their complexity forced him to develop unconventional ways of working. He would direct numerous projects simultaneously, sometimes with shared, sometimes with individual teams. 

When he was asked why the Sagrada Familia was progressing so slowly, he said: "Every artist and every age has its own spirit. God is not in a hurry because He does not need anything, unlike the offspring of the builders." In fact, before tackling the church, he constructed the school of the Sagrada Familia, a building that so astonished Le Corbusier that it inspired him to create a new form of architecture based on Gaudi's light structures and parabolic forms that spread all over Europe and the US, right down to the recently built congress hall by Arata Isozaki in Doha.

Gaudí was also a master of recycling: with the waste from textile and steel factories, he made light, thermic walls; with wooden crates used to import cotton, he made the pews for the church of the Colonia Güell. 

Although he shared in the ideas of the Arts & Crafts movement of Ruskin and Morris, and shared elements of the Art Nouveau style, Gaudí is in a class of his own in his use of new materials--cement, steel and glass--and of trencadís, a mosaic-like technique he invented to cover curved surfaces with reject ceramic and glass fragments. In a way he was applying Pointillism to architecture, allowing abstract forms to be created by "breaking" and "reconstructing" the shape of the architecture.

His most experimental work is the Colonia Güell at Santa Coloma, an industrial town outside Barcelona, where his patron, Count Güell, also gave him a free hand to build the church. What he learned there was to be applied to the construction of the Sagrada Familia, the work that Gaudí said, "they will come to see from all over the world". 

He was right: visitors do come in their millions, and no less than seven of his buildings--more than any other architect--have been declared World Heritage Sites by Unesco. 

Posted by at October 12, 2014 7:06 PM

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