Antoni Gaudí - Who Was the Spanish Modernist Architect?

Life Around La Sagrada Familia (1852-1926)

Black and white portrait of architect Antoni Gaudi, dark hair and dark beard
Portrait of Antoni Gaudi, 1880s. Photo by Apic / Hulton Archive / Getty Images (cropped)

Leading the Spanish Modernist movement, Antoni Gaudí has been linked with Gothicism (sometimes called warped Gothicism), Art Nouveau, and Surrealism. He was also influenced by Oriental styles, nature, sculpture, and a desire to go beyond anything that had ever been done before. Defying labels, Antoni Gaudí's work might be simply called Gaudí-ism.


Born: June 25, 1852 somewhere in Catalonia, possibly Baix Camp, Tarragona, Spain

Died: June 12, 1926

Full Name: Antoni Plàcid Guillem Gaudí Cornet

Education: Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura, Barcelona

Important Buildings:


  • 1900: Casa Calvet named Building of the Year by the City of Barcelona
  • 1969: Casa Milà, Casa Vincens, Colegio Teresiano, Parque Güell, and Sagrada Familia, named Historic-Artistic Monuments of National Interest
  • 1984: Casa Milà, Palau Güell, and Parque Güell granted World Heritage status by UNESCO


    • John Ruskin - "Ornament is the origin of architecture"
    • William Morris
    • Religion - the basis of Gaudí's inspiration, particularly in later years
    • Catalan nationalism
    • Gothicism
    • Modernism
    • Surrealism
    • Oriental structures
    • Art Nouveau and shapes taken from nature
    • Organic architecture
    • Color
    • Geometry
    • Eugène Viollet-le-Duc and medieval French architecture


      • "Originality consists of returning to the origin. Thus, originality means returning, through one's resources, to the simplicity of the early solutions."
      • "Everything comes from the great book of nature."
      • "Artists do not need monuments erected for them because their works are their monuments."

      Life of Antoni Gaudí:

      Stricken with a rheumatic problem that made walking painful, young Antoni Gaudí often missed school and had little interaction with other children, but had ample time to study nature. While seeking his degree in architecture in Barcelona, Gaudí also studied philosophy, history, and economics. He believed that differences in architecture were caused by society and politics, rather than aesthetics.

      Gaudí was granted the title of Architect and presented his first major project, the Mataró Cooperative (a housing project for factory workers), at the Paris World Fair in 1878. Far ahead of his time, only a small portion of the project was actually built, but Gaudí's name became known and he met Eusebi Güell, who would become a very close friend as well as a patron. This meeting was extremely fortuitous: Güell trusted his friend's genius completely and never limited or tried to change the architect's vision during his many projects.

      In 1883, Gaudí began work on his greatest project, the Sagrada Familia church, begun in 1882 by Francisco de Paula del Villar. For nearly 30 years, Gaudí worked on Sagrada Familia and other projects simultaneously, until 1911, when he decided to devote himself exclusively to the church. During the last year of his life, Gaudí lived in his studio at Sagrada Familia.

      Tragically, in June, 1926, Gaudí was run over by a tram. Because he was poorly dressed, he was not recognized and taxi drivers refused to take a "vagabond" to the hospital (they were later fined by the police). Gaudí died five days later, and was buried in the crypt of the building to which he had devoted 44 years of his life, the as-yet unfinished Sagrada Familia.

      During Gaudí's lifetime, official organizations rarely recognized his talent.

      The City of Barcelona often tried (unsuccessfully) to stop or limit Gaudí's work because it exceeded city regulations, and the only project the City ever assigned him was that of designing streetlights. He received the Building of the Year award for his least impressive building, Casa Calvet.

      Sources: Gaudi & Barcelona Club at; Gaudi 2002 at; Gaudí and Art Nouveau in Catalonia at

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      Craven, Jackie. "Antoni Gaudí - Who Was the Spanish Modernist Architect?" ThoughtCo, Sep. 11, 2016, Craven, Jackie. (2016, September 11). Antoni Gaudí - Who Was the Spanish Modernist Architect? Retrieved from Craven, Jackie. "Antoni Gaudí - Who Was the Spanish Modernist Architect?" ThoughtCo. (accessed February 24, 2018).