Childhood & Early Life
Antoni Gaudí was born on 25 June 1852, in Baix Camp, a comarca located in the province of Tarragona, Catalonia. While his identification papers give Reus as his birthplace, he himself had said that he was born in Riudoms, a neighboring village, where the Gaudi family had their summer home.
His father, Francesc Gaudí i Serra, a coppersmith from Riudoms, was involved with the boiler making industry. His mother, Antònia Cornet i Bertran, was the daughter of a coppersmith from Reus. The couple lived mostly in Reus.
Antoni Gaudí was born the youngest of his parents’ five children. However, only two of his siblings, a sister named Rosa and a brother named Francesc, reached adulthood. Two others, a sister called Maria and another brother called Francesc died in infancy.
On 26 June 1852, Antoni was baptized in the church of Sant Pere Apòstol in Reus. As a child, he suffered from rheumatic problems, because of which he often found walking a painful experience and was forced to travel either on donkeys or stay at home, missing his classes.
Rheumatics also prevented him from playing with other children. Left alone, he spent his time watching plants, animals and stones, especially during their visit to Riudoms. Slowly, he began to discover a natural pattern, which he would store in his memory. He would later call nature his real teacher.
Continue Reading Below
Gaudi began his education at a nursery school run by Francesc Berenguer located on the roof of a house in Reus, studying there until the age of eleven. Thereafter, he moved to Col.legi de les Escoles Píes, a school run by the Piarists.
It was while studying at Col.legi that he began to make all-round improvement, eventually earning some excellent grades, especially in geometry. During this period, he made significant physical improvement that enabled him to take field trips. His artistic skills also developed significantly.
While in school, he drew illustrations for the school newsletter and designed the scenes for the school theatre. He also drew pictures for a seminar. Moreover, the school influenced him to grow religiously and realize the "value of the divine history of the salvation of man through Christ incarnate..."
While studying at the Piarists’ school, he also worked at the family workshop with his father and grandfather, slowly acquiring a skill for working with space and volume. Sometime during this period, he also worked as an apprentice in a textile mill in Reus.
In 1868, sixteen years old Gaudi moved to Barcelona to study architecture at Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura. But before he could enter the institution, he had to take three elective courses at the Provincial School of Architecture, and two courses in the College of Science.
In 1873, he entered Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura. But his studies were interrupted, when, on 7 July 1874, he was enlisted in the army as part of his compulsory military service. According to available records, he was assigned to the Army Infantry in Barcelona as assistant in Military Administration.
On completing his military service in December 1876, he returned to Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura to continue his studies, attending philosophy, history, economics, and aesthetics classes along with studying architecture. That was because he believed that different architectural styles depended on the social and political atmosphere of that period.
Although he was not an outstanding student, he did get excellent grades in two projects, one of which involved designing of buildings or parts of it. The other one required him to design the patio of the Barcelona Provincial Council. He financed his education by working on various projects.
In early 1878, Gaudi received his degree and embarked on his career as a professional architect. Initially, he followed the style of his Victorian predecessors. But very soon, he developed his own style, which involved combinations of geometric masses, animated by patterned brick or stone, bright ceramics and metalwork.
Continue Reading Below
His first project involved designing lampposts at Plaça Reial, a well-known square in Barcelona. He worked on it from 1878 to 1879. Simultaneously, he also worked for glove manufacturer Comella. Also from 1878 to 1882, he worked on Obrera Mataronense at Mataró, designing its factory building, workers’ housing complex, serving building, etc.
In 1878, he attended Paris World Fair, where he showcased his works for Comella and Obrera Mataronense. They impressed Catalan industrialist Eusebi Güell, who would later commission many of his outstanding works.
In 1883, Gaudí was asked to take over the work of Basilica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia, initially designed by Francisco del Villar. Although the construction work had already begun, Gaudí changed the design, stamping it with his own style.
Also in 1883, he was commissioned to build a summer house for Manuel Vicens. Known as Casa Vicens, the work was completed in 1885. In this work, he, for the first time, broke away from the architectural norm of that period and used a mixture of Hispanic and Arabic styles of architecture.
From 1883 and 1885, he designed and built ‘El Capricho’, a summer villa for Eusebi Güell’s father-in-law, Máximo Díaz de Quijano. Meanwhile in 1884, he designed the entrance pavilion and stables for Güell’s palace at Pedralbes. Known as Finca Güell, it was his first complete work for the tycoon.
In 1885, he was commissioned to build a mansion in Barcelona by Eusebi Güell. He started the work in 1886, completing it by 1888. Known as Palau Güell, the building has now been included under the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Works of Antoni Gaudi" along with his six other works.
In 1887, while he was still working on Palau Güell, he was commissioned to rebuild ‘Episcopal Palace’ in Astorga by Bishop Juan Bautista Grau y Vallespinos. Since he could not leave Barcelona, he asked the bishop to send photographs of the area, based on which he designed the building.
In 1890, he was commissioned by Güell to build a church and crypt in Santa Coloma de Cervelló, near Barcelona. But soon after the crypt was built, Güell ran into financial difficulties and the project was shelved. Known as 'Church of Colònia Güell', the work is considered a masterpiece.
Gaudi worked on ‘Episcopal Palace’ till 1893, after which he left the project due to a disagreement with the authorities. Meanwhile in 1889, he started on a new project, building a school called 'Col·legi de les Teresianes' in the old town of San Gervasio de Cassolas, completing the work in 1894.
Continue Reading Below
From 1891 to 1893, he was busy building the outer walls of the absis of the Sagrada Família. Concurrently, from 1892 to 1894, he designed and built ‘Casa de los Botines’ at León, which along with ‘Episcopal Palace’ in Astorga helped to spread his name across Spain.
In 1895, he started working on another Güell project, a complex consisting of a winery and associated buildings. Located in Garaff and known as ‘Bodegas Güell’ or ‘Celler Güell, it was completed in 1897, under the supervision of Gaudi’s helper, Francesc Berenguer.
In the early 1900s, Gaudi undertook multiple projects, building 'Bellesguard', which is also known as ‘Casa Figueres’, between 1900 and 1909 and 'Casa Milà' between 1906 and 1912. In 1904, he also redesigned 'Casa Batlló’, completing the work in 1906.
In 1900, Güell commissioned him to build an urban estate in Barcelona. Although the project was not completed due to commercial unviability, the park is now a World Heritage Site under "Works of Antoni Gaudí". Built between 1900 and 1914, ‘Parque Güell’ was handed over to the city in 1923.
Sometime in the 1910s, Gaudi abandoned his secular works and began to devote himself to more religious edifices. However, the time was not at all happy for him because during this period, several of his close friends and relatives passed away, leaving him lonely and distraught.
Among those who died were his only niece Rosa (1912), his close collaborator Francesc Berenguer (1914) and his friend and patron Eusebi Güell (1918). Several of his projects, including ‘La Colonia Güell’, were also hampered because of a financial crunch. The construction of ‘La Sagrada Família’ also slowed down.
Since 1915, he concentrated mainly on ‘La Sagrada Família’, designing eighteen towers for it, often asking for donations to finance his project. However, until 1924, he also took up a few minor projects. But after that, he concentrated solely on ‘La Sagrada Família’.
In his later years, he also championed for Catalan culture and participated in several demonstrations, even getting beaten by police for it, first in 1920 and then in 1924. Once he was also arrested by the Civil Guard, which resulted in a short stay in jail.
Family & Personal Life
Antoni Gaudi never married. He lived with his father and his niece Rosa, the two surviving members of the family. According to hearsay, he was attracted to one woman, Josefa Moreu, a teacher at the Mataró Cooperative, whom he met in 1884. However, his feelings were not reciprocated.
On 7 June 1926, Gaudi was struck by a passing tram while taking a walk along the Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes. Although he lost consciousness, he did not receive immediate help because nobody recognized him. Because of his shabby clothes, people took him for a beggar.
After lying unconscious for some time, he was eventually taken to the Santa Creu Hospital, a hospital for the poor. Here, he got the basic treatment, but nothing more. Meanwhile, his absence alerted his well-wishers and they went looking for him.
On 8 June 1926, he was recognized by Mosén Gil Parés, the chaplain of the Sagrada Família. But by then, his condition had worsened and it was understood that additional treatment would not help him anymore. He died two days later, on 10 June 1926. He was then 73 years old.
His funeral was held on 12 June 1926 in the chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the crypt of the le Sagrada Família. It was attended by a large crowd, who came out to bid him farewell. Later, he was buried in the same church.