Antoni Gaudí is a name that is synonymous with Barcelona. Yet who was this curious man who dedicated his life’s work to architecture in Barcelona and its surrounding areas?
You’ve more than likely heard of this great architect and are familiar with some of his great masterpieces. From the Sagrada Família and Park Güell to Casa Battló and the Pedrera, these iconic monuments in Barcelona are a must-see on any visit the city.
Although he started as part of the Catalan modernisme movement, he quickly strayed away and developed his own unique style that has become renowned all over the world.
In this article we’ve put together 10 interesting facts about the man that was Antoni Gaudí. Enjoy!
1. Antoni Gaudí had a difficult childhood
Antoni Gaudí was born in 1852 in the coastal town of Reus where he lived for the first 16 years of his life in a small house with his parents Francesc Gaudí and Antònia Cornet. A sickly child, he suffered from rheumatism from a young age, which prevented him from playing with his friends and living the life of a normal boy. However, it was most likely because of this sad fact that meant the young artist spent a lot of time with his family in nature, which would later prominently feature in his work and become his greatest muse.
2. Antoni Gaudí’s first drawings were published in a school magazine
Around about the age of 15, his first drawings were published in the magazine El Arlequín (The Harlequin), which was edited by his schoolmates Eduard Toda and Josep Ribera (who also went on to become renowned figures). The magazine published mainly humour and poetry alongside Gaudí’s modest illustrations.
3. Antoni Gaudí was not the best student in the class
In 1868, Antoni Gaudí moved to Barcelona to study architecture, which was his greatest passion. However, it is said that he spent hours poring over images of oriental buildings, attending poetry readings and philosophy classes, going to the theatre, taking part in intellectual debates and exploring the surrounding areas of Catalonia.
4. Antoni Gaudí was a misunderstood revolutionary
Gaudí was terribly misunderstood, even by other artists. George Orwell called the Sagrada Familia one of the most ghastly buildings in the world. Casa Milà, which doesn’t contain a single straight line, was also heavily criticised in the press and was subject to great satire and ridicule. It was even nicknamed “the Wasp’s Nest” and “La Pedrera” (the Stone Quarry), which is the name it is known by today.
5. Antoni Gaudí never married
It is said that Antoni Gaudí only ever proposed marriage to one woman, who turned him down. Pepeta Moreu was Gaudí’s unrequited love. She married several times in her life, however, it was said that she admired Gaudí but didn’t particularly like him. Her refusal led Gaudí to retreat from society and focus on his work, religion and mysticism.
6. Gaudí avoided the use of straight lines in his architecture
As mentioned, in Gaudí’s pieces of architecture it is not uncommon for there not to be a single straight line. The reasons behind this are that he took great inspiration from nature and organically formed structures, which unlike man-made buildings, are curved, leaning, coiled and arched.
7. No one recognised Antoni Gaudí when he died
In the later stages of his life, the great architect dedicated every waking hour to his great masterpiece the Sagrada Família. His humble and rather unkempt appearance meant that, one day when he was unfortunately run over by a passing tram on Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, nobody recognised the great artist and he was mistaken for a homeless vagrant.
8. 7 of Gaudí’s pieces have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Despite being a greatly unacknowledged artist of his time, today a total of seven of the artist’s works feature on the prestigious list of World Heritage Sites. The outstanding universal value of the following works has been recognised: Park Güell and the Güell Palace; Casa Mila (also known as La Pedrera); the recently opened Casa Vicens; Gaudí’s work on the Nativity façade and the Crypt of La Sagrada Familia; Casa Batlló; and the Colonia Güell crypt.
9.The Sagrada Família was meant to be finished in 2026
The construction of the Sagrada Família was scheduled to be completed in 2026 to mark 100 years since Antoni Gaudí’s death. However, due to recent events of the pandemic, the date of 2026 has been deemed impossible. Although an alternative date has not been given, the citizens of Barcelona have been assured that work on the Sagrada Família will not cease.
We hope you enjoyed these interesting facts about Antoni Gaudí!