When Antoni Gaudi was born in the seaside village of Catalonia, Spain in 1852, no one could have known that his creativity and visionary designs would so profoundly alter the landscape of Barcelona.
As a child, Antoni’s health was delicate. He spent time resting at his family’s summer home where his devoted mother Antonia Cornet kept a watchful eye over him. Since he was too ill to play outside like other children, Antonia made sure that his bed was next to a large window so that he always had stunning views of the trees, flowers, birds, and sunshine. Despite spending much time in bed, Antoni had a happy and loving childhood thanks to his kind-hearted mother. The devotion to her little boy inspired us to use part of Antonia’s name for our company.
Antoni soaked in the beauty of nature that surrounded him. He noticed that nature’s miraculous work wasn’t formed from straight lines, but from curves and arcing angles, and he tucked these observations away in his mind and would later incorporate them in his finest masterpiece.
When his health returned, Antoni helped his father and grandfather in their workshop. Mere boilermakers they were, but the little boy had bigger aspirations. Working with space and volume with his family members close by, Antoni realized he could take the education instilled in him in that little workshop and apply it to bigger things like structures and buildings. Realizing that he also needed a formal education, he set off for Barcelona in his late teens to study architecture. Despite the headmaster’s opinion that Antoni did not have a gift for the trade, the young man followed his dreams and proudly obtained his degree and kept moving forward.
After graduating, Antoni gladly accepted any work he could find, such as designing lampposts in the city’s Plaça Reial, an elegant royal square accented by fountains, streetlamps and lush palms. And although he enjoyed the work, it didn’t satisfy his hunger to create bigger and more impressive structures. A chance meeting with wealthy Spanish industrialist Eusebi Guell became a major turning point. Guell saw in Antoni a brilliant mind, a passion for artistic design, and the patience to follow through on projects. Antoni realized that Guell was a willing benefactor… his money could be used to create the structures that Antoni had imagined. Together, they could bring Antoni’s dreams to reality!
Antoni started creating elaborate designs for Guell. From the Guell wine cellars with their graceful sloping walls and tall dormer-shaped windows to the stately Palau Guell mansion, the structures Antoni created stunned Guell with their ornate beauty. He’d never seen anything so rich, so undeniably breathtaking.
With the blessing of his benefactor, Antoni embarked on a new project in 1883. He took over the design of the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, or more simply, the Sagrada Família Basilica. A previous architect had begun working on the basilica, but his designs seemed mediocre. Suddenly, Antoni, a devout Catholic, took it to new heights—literally and figuratively! He envisioned soaring columns, hypnotic angles, and mesmerizing shapes. Antoni had found the project that would not only define his career, but the one that would thoroughly consume him.
As he painstakingly began building the basilica, Antoni spent nearly every waking moment on it for more than 40 years. As he never married nor had children, the basilica became the love of his life. In his limited spare time, Antoni walked the forests around Barcelona and observed nature just as he had done as a child. He breathed in the rich scents from the tall pines and oaks… watched birds build elaborate nests… and examined the bending waves in fields of grass. With God’s creations as a guide, he incorporated nature’s finest work into his own—adding graceful curves, plant motifs, and intricate patterns into the basilica’s design. With nature and faith so close to his heart, Antoni felt truly inspired to craft the basilica in the most loving manner.
His mesmerizing style transformed an ordinary church to extraordinary. As Antoni poured his blood and sweat into every inch of the basilica, people wondered if he was crazy. Could the eye-bending arches and sky-reaching columns really work? Antoni paid no attention to their doubts as he meticulously built the structure to dazzling new heights utilizing unforgettable shapes, twists, and dimensions.
His style is identified in the Modernism artistic movement that was sweeping through Barcelona at the time. Modernism embraces new materials and promotes curved lines, asymmetry, energetic forms, and other characteristics that Antoni employed in the creation of his beloved basilica. He became a key figure in the Modernism movement.
Knowing that other artists offered exceptional and creative gifts and talents, he went looking for the finest craftsmen. These individuals provided stained glass, ceramics, and mosaics—all eye-catching and stunning—to make the basilica into a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Antoni knew he didn’t need to showcase his artistic talents in a museum—his building itself was a museum that could be loved and admired by people for centuries to come.
Sadly, Antoni died before the basilica could be completed and the work and effort to finish the Sagrada Familia continues to this very day. His keen eye for space and shapes... his life of dedication to the basilica... and his ability to marry the dazzling beauty of nature to the creation of an earthly structure truly make this special man a world-class master of three-dimensional art.
Today, the Sagrada Familia is Barcelona’s #1-visited tourist attraction, drawing over three million people annually from around the world who long to experience the natural beauty of a man-made structure so lovingly built by the inspired and visionary master of the “mesmerizing impossible,” Antoni Gaudi.