Monday, September 24, 2007

Antoni Gaudi

There is a bit of tension in Art Nouveau between functionality and expression; perhaps we could say that Art Nouveau is partly guided by the idea that the design of a dinner fork should be as expressive as that of a mosaic. One of the most imaginative architects of the jugendstil was Antoni Gaudi. Almost too imaginative; it's hard to imagine anyone actually living in one of his buildings without being a wizard.
Gaudi's first buildings, beginning in 1878, included Islamic motifs and part of his public appeal lay in the fact that he incorporated Moorish elements that recalled Catalonia's glory days at a time when the region was looking to be independent from Castille. He was also influenced by the romantic Catalan ''Renaixenca'' movement, a major source of ''Modernisme'' in Barcelona.
Many of his works were built for the Güell textile manufacturer, including the striking curved mosaic benches at Güell Park and the colonnaded hall in the same park which resembles the interior of a mosque.
The Casa Batlló looks like something out of a fantasy novel and here Gaudi overcame the use of right angles, at least on the lower floors. The building almost looks like an organ in an alien body, probably ensuring that another one will never be built.
In 1883, Gaudi was commissioned to complete the Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona, which had been begun in a Gothic style. Gaudi's work is a sort of mixture of Gothicism, sandcastle, and stalagmite. In his later years, Gaudi became more reclusive and religious, and the church occupied more of his time and energy. When Gaudi died in an accident at the age of seventy-four, the church was unfinished.

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