One of the biggest accomplishments for any architect is to imbue his works with an inherent signature, an identity reflective of the architect’s unmistakeable style. The works of Gaudí are such distinct masterpieces, they have defined their own language of architecture. His buildings relent control to nature, they are unyielding to the constraints set forth by man and take on their own course, transitioning in their curvilinear organicity. Embracing imperfections and irregularities in nature and allowing natural forms to guide his work, Gaudi’s work cannot be limited to one style, his works explore expressionism, Art Nouveau and the Neo-Mudéjar style. His works are an eclectic mix of elements from the past and his urge to renew art and architecture.
His approach was to begin with Gothic architecture as the seed for research, this enabled him to conclude on his own structural system, with parabolic and equilibrated arches lacking the need for buttresses. His formative years influenced his work at a deep level, working with his father as an artisan shaping sheets of copper taught him the lack of straight lines in nature, taught him to work with his hands and the discipline of skilled crafts; the rich landscape of his childhood kept him closely linked to his region and environment. His work also showcases his religious consciousness, his constant devotion to God; the tallest spire in La Sagrada Familia is just one metre shy of Montjuïc hill in Barcelona as he believed that the work of man cannot surpass God. All his works are strikingly original yet have some key elements which identify them as Gaudi’s work.
Casa Vicens, one of the first residences by Gaudi, was declared a World Heritage Site in 2005. The building is a unique blend of Oriental and Moorish influences adorned with beautiful green and white mosaic tiles. The façade shows an early manifestation of his signature, trencadis- mosaic tiled facades. Designed as a small single-family home, the brick and mosaic tiled elevations of the house paid homage to its owners; Manuel Vicens- who was the owner of a brick and tile factory. It is currently preserved as a museum.
Another small but significant contribution Gaudi made in his early career, were the Lampposts in Plaça Reial. The design for these is rife with details and symbolism, ranging from the ornamentation details to even their strategic placement to illuminate the important public buildings of the square, all highlight Gaudi’s ability to narrate a vision through his work. With references to classical symbolism and the culture of Barcelona, these lampposts are an engaging visual treat.
Casa Mila resembling a stone quarry- La Pedera , or something organic and skeleton which was naturally formed rather than created. The residence of Casa Mila is one of the most iconic works by Gaudi. The building is divided into several levels, the ground floor as a garage, the main entry through the mezzanine; the main floors for the owners and the remaining to be put up for rent. The building culminates with the marvellous roof terrace, a textured and sculptured mosaic garden which conceals within its envelope all the services, the fans and chimneys as part of its fold. A walkthrough this roof space is an enthralling visual delight, a similar experience is when one walks though Parc Güell in Barcelona. This project with its construction techniques and structural detailing is like an unfinished project, Colònia Güell church. Large expanses of curved stone columns create arched shaded walkways, skewed in the perspective of the user creating a unique whimsy; these are one of the most remarkable features of this park. Another notable feature is the curved bench on the terrace facing the skyline of the city of Barcelona. The contrast and interplay of Gaudi’s work against the backdrop of the city is more eminent here than anywhere else.
The Colònia Güell, in a small suburb outside Barcelona was given to Gaudi to design a place of worship, an altar to aspire to in the small working-class suburb by the Count Eusebi de Guell. Even though the project failed to complete, it showcases the growth and innovation of some techniques which Gaudi successfully applies to his later works. For this project, it was only the crypt which saw completion with its intelligent and smooth transition between materials and textures of stone and brick, its careful articulation of light and smooth transitionary circulation, the structure allows the viewer a greater understanding of Gaudi’s process and style.
One of his most flamboyant and artistic designs, Casa Batlló with a narration through ornate vines, an interpretation of animal shapes and the sheen of glazed ceramic and glass culminate in a building which is a piece of art. The flowing shapes, curves and colours; the biomorphic skeletal skin with entrances akin to bone frames, the stark reptilian tiled sloping roof never fail to capture the imagination of its viewers. Religious imagery and symbolism like in all his works; is present subliminally.
Lastly, his magnum opus, La Sagrada Familia, a church which has been in construction for the last 100 years and is likely to be completed by 2026. Its name is synonymous to the identity of Gaudi. While remaining typical in its plan; the church veers away from gothic cathedrals by eliminating one of the most crucial keys of a Gothic church, the flying buttress.
A system of angled tree-like columns and hyperboloid vaults form the core structural system. Hyperboloids, conoids, parabolas and similar ruled forms comprise of the basis of the structure, they allow for a thinner and finer structure and further enhance the lighting and acoustical properties of the building. The concept of the church was to visually represent the Christian beliefs, the facades for south, east and west each symbolise various tenets of the Christian faith. Once complete, the building will have 10 towers, offering several unique vantage points. Each of the towers is representative of different figures of importance in Christianity, four for the Apostles, one for Mary near the Apse and one for Christ himself, further surrounded by four towers representing the evangelists.
While these are some of the iconic works by Gaudi, there are several other noteworthy works like, Casa Calvet built as a dwelling for a textile owner and arguably one of Gaudi’s more sombre works. The Palau Güell, an urban palace designed by Gaudi is a good example of architectonic heritage work. While its limestone façade lacks the technicolour myriad so notable of Gaudi, the interiors are a fine show of power and grandeur. The Episcopal palace of Astorga, another palace designed by Gaudi in the province of Leon, Spain. While external factors like disagreements with the public offices etc. forced Gaudi to leave the project before completion, the final design reflects his vision.