“A terrifically stirring biography …Mr. van Hensebergen animates ideas with narrative drive. Buildings are his characters.”
“Van Hensbergen … has produced a soaring biography of his subject, meticulously researched, elegantly organized, fluidly, lucidly written.”
“A significant contribution to the understanding of the great Catalan architect.”
“Vivid and engaging”
“Elegantly written, handsomely illustrated GAUDI … [is] a memorable account of an original life.”
His extraordinary, surreal architecture has made Barcelona a pilgrimage site for those eager to behold such creations as the massive, unfinished Sagrada Familia cathedral. In the years since his death in 1926, Antoni Gaudí's works have been easier to understand than his life, due to the tragic destruction of his papers during the Spanish Civil War. Now, biographer Gijs Van Hensbergen has completed the first exhaustive chronicle of the eccentric architect's life, revealing the details of his childhood, education, and career.
Gaudi (1852-1926) is the Catalan architect most renowned for his Sagrada Familia cathedral and Park Guell in Barcelona; both feature dripping organic forms that fascinate some viewers and repel others. Van Hensbergen (A Taste of Castille), a U.K.-based lecturer on architecture, was able to do his research in Catalan, an inestimable advantage for any writer on Gaudi. In 16 lucid chapters, Gaudi's life and work are examined, from his ardent Catholicism and patriotism to his celibacy, which resulted from a disappointment in love. The chapter titles reflect the architect's own high-flown ambitions, but the writing doesn't contain the flatulent prose sometimes produced by fans of builders and buildings. Gaudi's often combative dealings with civic authorities are recounted clearly, up to his death in a street accident involving a tram, and are reconstructed as thoroughly as possible, yet not elaborated on or fabricated, as many another biographer might have tried to do. The author's virtues of balance and good taste are evident everywhere in this book, making it a powerfully creditable testament to the permanent value of Gaudi's contributions. Work on Gaudi is scarce in English, so this is truly a landmark effort. The book will fascinate anyone interested in modern architecture and urbanism, Spanish art or the relationships between art, religion and social improvement. Color and b&w illus. not seen by PW. (Nov.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
The first English-language biography of the great modern architect. Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926) is often called "mysterious," "enigmatic," and "elusive," right after he's called "eccentric," "saintly," and "mad." The aura of hushed confusion arises partly from the idiosyncrasies of his style, partly from the mystique of modernist artists, but most prosaically from the dearth of information available on the man. Shortly after his death, Gaudi's complete personal and professional archives became early casualties of the Spanish Civil War, a loss made particularly glaring by the fact that he seldom left his home city. The known facts-his birth, his childhood apprenticeship in his father's smithy, his education at the Escola Superior d'Arquitectura in Barcelona, his exposure to Gothic revivalism and socially minded aesthetics, his early success, his intense religious devotion later in life, and the astonishing sequence of buildings that emerged from his studio-all are set forth here with as much empathetic insight and contextual richness as the author's thorough scholarship, critical passion, and grasp of Catalan sensibility can supply. Unfortunately, the result is only half as valuable as it should be. Struggling to penetrate the myth of Gaudi, van Hensbergen evokes specific people, places, and buildings with quick, confident strokes, but writes in the disjointed, gnomic style of one so immersed in his subject that he has lost all sense of his audience. Despite stretches of coherent discussion, the absence of narrative and expository consistency make the text hard to follow. Thus it plunges into a detailed discussion of the process by which Gaudi, at only 31, took on his life's work, thedirectorship of the Cathedral de Sagrada Familia, without mentioning that the project had to be financed entirely by fundraising, a stipulation that would go far to explain the building's lifelong hold over the architect, whose socialistic sympathies gradually metamorphosed into Catholic piety. Readers, then, should be reasonably well-acquainted with Gaudi's career before sampling this substantial but lumpy stew.