Antoní Gaudi was born near Reus in 1852 in the province of Tarragona in Catalonia. At the age of 21 he began his architectural studies at the Escola Tècnica Superior d’Arquitectura in Barcelona. Upon graduation with only mediocre grades in 1878 the college’s director still didn’t know what to make of him as he noted:
“Qui sap si hem donat el diploma a un boig o a un geni. El temps ens ho dirà.” (“Who knows if we have given this diploma to a nut or to a genius. Time will tell.”)
And indeed it did. Soon he would be planning and designing some of the greatest architectural masterpieces ever created which have defined the city of Barcelona to this day.
His initial works were primarily Gothic in nature and had a traditional Spanish flare to them. After a few years he went on to develop his own style which was when his most popular works were created. The nature he had studied so much as a child was soon to be incorporated into his works and he showed amazing portrayals of water and organic shapes in his architectural designs. Later his work became known by the name ‘Art Nouveau’ which served as a precursor to today’s modern architecture which is best known as ‘Modernisme’.
If you only have time to visit one monument in Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia should be it. No other architect in history has ever had such an absolute influence on a single city as Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926) has had on Barcelona. There are great works of his Moderniste style all over the city but the greatest of all his works is the unfinished Sagrada Familia.
When Gaudi began building what he conceived as a “20th Century Cathedral” in 1883 he was well aware that he would never complete the construction in his lifetime. He soon became obsessed with the project and set up an office on site which became his permanent residence. His plan was to build facades which would represent the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ with eighteen towers symbolizing the twelve Apostles, the four Evangelists, and the Virgin Mary and Christ. The one representing Christ would be the tallest and would stand 170 metres high.
In 1926 Gaudi died at the age of 73 when he was hit by a tram on Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes very close to his masterpiece. Work continued but was halted in 1936 as a result of the Spanish Civil war and didn’t continue until 1952. During the war many of Gaudi’s original plans were destroyed which created much debate as to how future development of the building should continue.
More than three million people visit the Sagrada Familia every year with ticket revenue financing its ongoing construction. The aim is to complete the whole project by 2026 to celebrate the centenary of Gaudi’s death. To avoid long queues at the cathedral’s ticket office it’s wise to pre-book a Barcelona City Tour including the Sagrada Familia.
Address: C/ Mallorca 401
Opening Hours: 9am-6pm (Oct-Mar); 9am-8pm (Apr-Sep)
Metro: Sagrada Familia
Check Entrance Fees at the Sagrada Familia Website.
Other Gaudí Buildings in Barcelona
Whilst the Sagrada Familia is Gaudí’s most celebrated work there are many more masterpieces around the city that you simply must visit when in the city. here are some of the highlights:
Address: Carrer D’Olot, 7
Metro: Lesseps (more convenient is Bus Nº 24 or the Bus Turístic service)
Park Guell dates back to 1900 when Eusebi Güell commissioned Gaudí to build a garden city intended for the elite of Barcelona society. As a real estate venture the property wasn’t a success with only two homes ever being built on it. Today it is a Gaudí park which is owned by the city of Barcelona and features a breathtaking selection of Gaudi architecture. Look out for the giant coloured lizard which is one of the city’s most photographed attractions. Casa Museu Gaudí is the house at the entrance with a spire where the architect lived for most of his last 20 years.
La Pedrera (Casa Milà)
Address: Passeig de Gràcia ,92
La Pedrera is probably Gaudi’s 2nd most recognisable masterpiece. It was built between 1905 and 1910 as a commission for the wealthy Milà family in the upmarket Gràcia district serving as an apartment and an office block. A visit to the Casa Milà allows you to get a taste of wealthy Catalan society a century ago as you wander through the fascinating rooms of the family home.
The roof is particulary interesting with its selection of Modernist sculptures and chimneys from where you can see the Sagrada Familia in the distance. In the evenings during the summer months you can go on the roof of La Pedrera and enjoy ‘La Pedrera de Nit’ when you can enjoy a glass of cava (Catalan champagne) to the accompaniment of classical music.
Address: Passeig de Gràcia, 43
Metro: Passeig de Gràcia (exit Calle Aragó-Rambla Catalunya)
Just down the Passeig de Gràcia on the other side of the road from La Pedrera is another classic Gaudí structure. This building was also commissioned by a wealthy local businessman, Josep Batlló, to serve mainly as a family home. Although Gaudi originally designed the building to look like St George’s Dragon your imagination can run away with you as you stare at the structure from outside. Typical observations are of tiles used to portray fish scales, balconies that look like bird’s nests and a roof than resembles a dinosaur’s back!
As well as the Gaudi buildings described above there are around 25 more spread around the city. Not all of the works are open to the public but they’re still worth looking for. The biggest concentration of these buildings is in the Gràcia district of Barcelona just north of Plaça de Catalunya.