Gaudí, the tasteless creativity

2 mars 2017

City of all virtuosos, Barcelona has inextricably linked its destiny to Art and artists. From Picasso to Tàpies through the surrealist works of Joan Miró, many prodigies are from the Catalan capital. Yet, only one of them actually shaped the city in its own way.

"We graduated a mad man or a genius"

Barcelona, ​​1859, frees itself from its heavy corset of medieval walls to invent a new architectural future. The city overflows on the surrounding hills and urban projects multiply in a bourgeois and curious city of the urban-intellectual Renaixença of the late nineteenth century. So fond of this modernism, Barcelona then becomes the favorite playground of a young fantastic Catalan architect: Antoni Gaudí. For nearly forty years, he led projects full of Catalan modernism and strong surrealist accents of his own universe. A villa with scales glazed here and there, chimneys with complicated volutes there, are many achievements that still enamel the city today. Several monuments are also classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site and attract tourists from all over the world who hurry in successive and colorful waves as an unconscious tribute to the genius of this visionary man who was able to reconcile nature, Art and matter.


Antoni Gaudí was born in 1852 in Reus, south-west of Barcelona. Coming from a modest family, he lives a childhood and a peaceful youth on his native Catalan lands. Exempted from military service for health reasons, he took the opportunity to continue his studies. Gaudí studied architecture at the Llotja School and then at the Barcelona Provincial School of Architecture, graduating in 1878. At the graduation ceremony, Elies Regent, the Director of the School Of Architecture of Barcelona, announced "We graduated a mad man or a genius. Time will tell us".

Art, convictions and beliefs

If today this is considered as ingenious, the style of Antoni Gaudí did not carry off suffrages at the time. Closer to madness than to genius, his early works were much criticized by many of his contemporaries, who emphasized the organic aspect, even the absence of what was then considered to be true architecture. If Gaudí had many critics, fortunately for him, his supporters allowed him to honor great orders while not sacrificing his style so particular. Thus his patrons were the ecclesiastical world, as the Associació Espiritual de Devots of Sant Josep but also and especially the industrial bourgeoisie of Barcelona, Eusebi Güell at the head.

Thus, over the years, Barcelona sees a lot of incredible accomplishments combining art, convictions and beliefs. Religion, nature and Catalonia are the main sources of inspiration for Antoni Gaudí. From very original lampposts of Plaça Reial (1878), to the various villas in the district of Gracia such as La Casa Batlo (1877), La Casa Vicens (1883) and La Casa Mila or La Pedrera (1906), that marks the peak of Gaudí style, through the incredible Parque Güell (1900) and its serpentine mosaics until the Puerta Miralles (1901). Barcelona grows and structures itself following the architect's creative pulse. But paradoxically, the work of Gaudí which attracts more than 3 million visitors per year is a masterly project, certainly, but an unfinished project.

The work of a lifetime

When he presented his works in Paris for the Universal Exhibition in 1878, Gaudí won the Güell Pavilion project and the eponym Palace, followed by the Basilica i Temple Expiatori project of the Sagrada Familia. The construction of the Sagrada Familia began in 1882 under the supervision of the architect Paula Del Villar. A symbol of Catalan modernism and Art Nouveau that spread throughout Europe, the objective was to build a cathedral in honor of the Holy Family. After many disagreements, the project is finally entrusted to Antoni Gaudí.

The beginning of the 20th century was marked by a tense context in Spain and Barcelona, ​​ with the Tragic Week (1909) and the First World War. In spite of everything, Gaudí will continue the construction of his "new Jerusalem", a city of peace and justice. Down from God, the Sagrada Familia is then imagined as "a modernity to reinvent the old order". Gaudí will then attribute to the Sagrada Familia the same dimensions as those of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. As a fervent Catalan and Catholic, the whole work is endowed with a particular symbolism. To realize his project in a concrete way, Gaudí foresees eighteen towers hierarchized by their height: twelve of them symbolize the apostles, four are attributed to the evangelists, one is dedicated to the Virgin and the last to Christ. He also imagines three facades representing the three great stages of the Son of God’s life: the Nativity, the Passion and the Glory. The soul of the Sagrada Familia also resides in its five columns, such as "souls contemplating God in infinity" according to Gaudí. It is interesting to note that the Sagrada Familia is supposed to culminate at 172 meters. Far from being chosen at random, Antoni Gaudí refused to allow his work to go beyond the hill of Montjuic, which overlooks Barcelona at 180 meters, the creation of Man being in no way superior to that of God. The work consists essentially of geometric shapes, all assembled together. The architect imagined the basilica with pure and simple forms in order to represent them on three-dimensional models. For Gaudí, the Sagrada Familia is only one project among many others and the Catalan then foresees ten years to completely complete the building. However, over the years, Gaudi has to face the obvious: he will never see the work completed. Therefore, he ensures that any architect is able to understand the plans and to continue the work after his disappearance. Antoni Gaudí then leaves an important mark of his architectural style and a valuable guide for the continuation of the site.

The never-ending story

He will devote the entire twelve years of his life to the Sagrada Familia. The Catalan architect will even install his workshop in the middle of the building site to be one with his work. Gaudí died on 10 June 1926 after having been overthrown by a tram three days earlier. This man who walked more than twelve kilometers per day to get to his worksite felt that "it was up to the machines to stop and not to the men". At 73, Gaudi is gone and leaves behind him the work of a lifetime.

"When, 26 years ago, I decided to run the Sagrada Familia works, I never imagined that I could do so much in such a short time", says one of the current architects in charge of the construction site. Although it is impossible today to predict a specific end date, many experts say that the work will be completed in 2026 for the centenary of Gaudí's death. The official site of the Sagrada Familia ensures that the entire building will be completed for the first third of the 21st century, so before 2033. If 70% of the Sagrada Familia has been realized in nearly 130 years, it remains only fifteen for the 30% remaining. More than a challenge, it is a race against the clock. They must complete three centuries of history but above all, pay a last tripute to Gaudí, a Catalan virtuoso, an genius architect, a magnificent thinker who will have fashioned a city according to his desires with Art and Matter.

Sergi Castignani, the artist-architect

Native of Barcelona where he grew up, Sergi Castignani met for the first time Art late, when he was an architect, at the age of 30. After his studies as an engineer-architect, he studied creation: lithography and calligraphy. This double cap between artist and engineer becomes the pillar of his creation. With his Art, close to the Japanese style and the stamp, Sergi Castignani sublimates landscapes or urban scenes directly inspired by his hometown. The artist voluntarily uses soft colors that blend to reveal the subtlety of nature's natural hues. He represents the dawn or the twilight: these moments when the colors and the lights are not yet defined. He loves when the elements of his canvases are blurred, when shapes and contours disappear to give way to lightness. In this way, color exists only through light. Poetry and gentleness are essential feelings that the artist loves to convey in his pieces of art.