Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.
For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.
Get it by Wednesday, January 24
, Order by 12:00 PM Eastern and choose Expedited Delivery during checkout.
Same Day delivery in Manhattan. Details
At the time of his death in 1926, Antonio Gaudí was arguably the most famous architect in the world. He had created some of the greatest and most controversial masterpieces of modern architecture that were as exotic as they were outrageous. But little is known about the shadowy figure behind the swirling, vivid buildings that inspired the Surrealists. A fervent Catholic with an unstinting love for Catalonia, his homeland, an innovator who was profoundly orthodox, and a hermit who chose lifelong celebacy, having been rejected by the woman he loved, Gaudí was both brilliant and eccentric.
This illustrated biography captures the power and importance of Gaudí's work and the unique spirit of Catalan culture.
About the Author
Gijs Van Hensbergen lectures in architecture and is the author of Art Deco and of the highly acclaimed travel book A Taste of Castille. He lives in Dorset, England.
Read an Excerpt
Antoni Gaudí I Cornet was born as he died, untidily -- the subject of controversy.
On 25 June 1852 a son was born to Francesc Gaudí and his wife, Antonia Cornet, residents of Reus. His baptism was unusually hasty. Although he was Antonia's fifth child, she had previously lost five-year-old Maria and two-year-old Francesc, within three months. Antonia's pregnancy had been a difficult one. The birth was traumatic and to save the baby's soul he was rushed to the church of Sant Pere Apostol in the first hour of his life.
Antoni Gaudí's baptismal papers leave little room for doubt as to where and when he was born. However, later in life, Gaudí mischievously left his options open by implying that he might in fact have been born at his father's workshop, just over the municipal boundaries in Riudoms.
But neither Riudoms nor Reus has done much with their legacies. Unsignposted buildings remain abandoned and drawings and documents are locked behind imposing museum doors. It is hardly a legacy to fight over. But the stakes have always been higher: local pride, fame, part-ownership in a future Catholic saint.
Francesc Gaudí's country workshop, the Mas de la Calderera, lies two hours' walk southwest of Reus. From the city boundary the road towards Riudoms leads almost directly west towards the mountains of the Serra de Montsant. Trapped between mountain and sea, the ever-changing weather creates drama across this narrow plain. On some days the stratocirrus clouds are teased out like wispy cotton threads across the deep blue sky. But the weather can change rapidly as blue turns to purple and thunder rolls off the high sierra bringing torrential rain.
From the main road the dried-out riera de Maspujols leads directly to the sea. On either side, farm tracks have been flattened in the soft red earth. The banks of the river are littered with brittle spindle brush and pieces of driftwood brought down from the villages above. To walk down the riverbed is to travel through time. Almost nothing here has changed in the last hundred years. Across the fields the spire of Riudoms church is clearly visible. But there is no sign of Francesc Gaudí's workshop. Clumps of umbrella pine surround the occasional farmhouse. High walls of cactus obscure the view. And it is utterly silent.
Almost a kilometre down, protected by a high mound, lies the Mas de la Calderera. A commemorative plaque claims it is Gaudí's birthplace. It is a simple brick and plaster construction, one room deep and about five metres wide. Two giant plantains keep the front courtyard almost permanently in the shade. With its back placed square to the hills behind and its small Dutch gable, the house has an air of formality. Around the windows and doors, a simple Greek key pattern is cut into the plaster and above the front door a small balcony faces the sea. The railings are brushed by the plantain leaves. Under the gable a Catalan flag is carved proudly in plaster central to the overall design. It is a house trying to stretch out. On one side facing the riverbed there is a lean-to that must have been Gaudí's father's workshop and stable. The dishevelled feel is accentuated by the jerry-built kennels under the trees. There is no museum and certainly no shrine.
Sebastià, the present owner, runs the spit-roast chicken shop in Riudoms. The farmhouse is used as store and shade for a small but thriving agricultural business. Just ten metres away in polytunnels, cucumbers, peppers and aubergines are grown for the Reus market.
Through the open main door a small central hall remains almost permanently in the dark. Doors lead off either side. Past the collapsed sofa, on the back wall a dog-eared Xerox portrait of Gaudí, pinned up with a thumbtack, is the only reminder of the building's previous owners.
Gaudí was born, most accounts have it, in the carrer Sant Joan, just off the Plaça Prim in Reus. An anonymous office block now stands there. Youngest of three surviving children, Gaudí took pride in his mother's recollection that, throughout his difficult birth, he battled to live. The theme of having being chosen for some higher purpose runs throughout his life.
Antoni was named after his mother, Antonia. His brother Francisco was thirteen months older; the eldest son named in the Catalan custom after his father. The two brothers, divided by their parents' names, were also rivals for their love. They were Antonia's replacements for the children she had recently lost.
Antoni Gaudí inherited, from both the Gaudí and Cornet lines, a long craft tradition. For eight generations, dating back to the early seventeenth century, they had been merchants, miners, farmers, weavers, boilermakers and coppersmiths. Gaudí was proud of his heritage:
I have that quality of spatial apprehension because I am the son, grandson, and the great-grandson of coppersmiths. My father was a smith; my grandfather also. On my mother's side of the family there were also smiths; her grandfather was a cooper; my maternal grandfather was a sailor, who also are people of space and circumstance. All these generations of people give a preparation.
Table of Contents
|'People of Space and Circumstance'||1|
|Voices in the Desert||15|
|City of Marvels||23|
|The Architectural Apprentice||46|
|Views of Heaven and the Harem||66|
|The Holy Fathers||83|
|Towards a New Jerusalem||112|
|The House of Bones||154|
|The Beleaguered Fort||159|
|The Sheltering Cave||184|
|The Setmana Tragica||200|
|A Thrown Pebble||214|
|'Symbols Dense as Trees'||218|
|The Cathedral of the Poor||244|