Friday, March 9, 2012

Pete's Pantheon: Antonio Gaudi and the Undulating Apartment Building

Like a mad dog or an Englishman, you are wandering the sun-blasted streets of the Mediterranean City of Barcelona. You are slightly lost, quite sleep deprived, and looking for something. As you round a corner, suddenly you know you've found it. A large apartment building swims into view from several blocks away. It bulges and flows with rhythmic grace, pinioned in place by the handsome but boring buildings that surround it. It is "The Pedrera" an apartment designed by the great Spanish Architect Antonio Gaudi.

It would be more accurate to call him a Catalan Architect, He lived and worked almost entirely in the area of Barcelona from his birth in 1852 to his death in 1926. His distinctive architectural style was an homage to his region, Catalonia, that overlaps the Mediterranean coasts of Spain and France. His buildings celebrate regional fauna and flora, incorporating them into the decoration and shapes of the buildings themselves. Although he was a part of the Modernista movement his work is distinctive. He often built without detailed blueprints and modeled stress and force in his buildings through complex mockups using weighted strings. What he could have done with present techniques and materials we can only wonder.

His unfinished masterpiece is The Sagrada Familia Cathedral. It was begun in 1883, Gaudi devoted himself exclusively to it in 1915, and it remains unfinished to this day. The building as it exists now still sums up his devotion to Catalonia, Catholicism and Architecture. Shot through with the natural history of the area from the tree trunk columns inside to the turtles and snails decorating the outside, Gaudi was building a house for God.  Shortly before his death, his absorption with the project led him to move on site. On his way to confession months after moving, he was run down by a tram, mistaken for an indigent, and finally recognized too late for any intervention.

He is now seen the World over as a unique genius. His work draws visitors from around the planet to see buildings that seem to have grown from up out of the soil to beckon their inhabitants. A house for God, and houses for men.   (Thanks to Wikipedia, Robert Hughes)

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