A man with a vision

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 March, 2011, 12:00am

'Man does not create ... he discovers' - Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926)

Death on the tram track

A white-haired, shabbily dressed old man with piercing blue eyes is crossing a road in the Spanish city of Barcelona. He looks worried. Behind him the first section of the new Sagrada Familia cathedral rises into the clear sky.

He has walked out of his workplace in a bad mood because he's just had an argument with one of his colleagues. It is June 10, 1926. Head down, staring at the cobbles, he takes a step forward, and is knocked down by a tram. Seriously injured, he is taken to a hospital where he dies without anyone recognising that he is one of the best-loved and most famous men in Spain.

Nature, imagination and craftsmanship

Young Antoni Gaudi loved to go for long hikes in the countryside around the village in southern Spain where he was born.

On his long solitary walks, he made notes and did drawings of plants, insects and animals in a small sketchbook he always carried with him.

He was also interested in buildings and knew from an early age that one day he would study architecture. But he wanted to do something different with buildings. He wanted to use nature and colour to design them.

When he was 21, he enrolled at the Barcelona School of Architecture. Because his family was not rich, he had to work part-time for the city's architects to earn money, but he didn't like their work. Gaudi knew he could offer the city something different.

Craftsmanship, style and colour

After his graduation, Gaudi began receiving commissions for small jobs around Barcelona, and soon rich businessmen were employing him to design houses.

No other architect could do what Gaudi did. His houses were covered in animal shapes, while the windows resembled flowers. He stuck bits of pottery and crystal to the outside walls. In 1884, he was chosen to design and build a new cathedral in the middle of Barcelona, and this became his life's work. Eighteen towers reached up into the sky, geometric shapes covered the outside walls, stone animals and flowers crept up to the top of the turrets. Gaudi had the whole design in his imagination, but everything came to a stop that day when he was killed by a tram in front of the cathedral.

Today, almost 90 years after his death, work is still going on to finish the Sagrada Familia. Hundreds of architects and builders are using their imagination and skill to complete this magnificent church just as Gaudi would have wanted.

Gaudi Workbook

Find online photographs of these important Gaudi buildings in Barcelona, and describe what you see in one paragraph. Keep your English simple.

Look at each building for a while and decide what you are going to write. What colours do you see? What shapes? How do you know this is not a building in Hong Kong? What do you think of each building? And if you like the drawing or painting, create your own version of a Gaudi building.

1 Casa Vicens

2 Casa Calvet

3 Casa Batllo

4 Casa Mila

5 La Sagrada Familia



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