Tribute To The Architect with Blue Eyes: Antoni Gaudi by Realrich Sjarief

I went to Casa Mila or La Pedrera [building made by stone] with my wife during pilgrimage’s trip in November last year (2014). I was amazed by La Pedrera which is an eight story building with vaulting chambers and undulating landscape at its roof which was supported by only 5-cm-width-vertically-stacked-bricks that formed catenary curves inspired by fish skeleton. The trip to Casa Mila was such an amazing experience, unexpected, which drew me so much inspiration from Antoni Gaudi’s creativity and technique of construction.
Jean Eduardo Circlot stated that Gaudi had three periods of creativity: the period before his 40 (presented by his early works: Casa Vicens, El Capricho, Pavilions of the Guells Estate, Palau Guell, Theresan College, Episcopal Palace of Sstorga, Casa Botines), the maturity period between his 40 and 60 (exhibited in: Guell Bodegas, Casa Calvet, Casa figueras, Park Guell, Restoration of the Cathedral of Mallorca, Casa Battlo, Casa Mila, Crypt of Guell Industrial Village) and definitely his final years that are demonstrated in his basilica of the Sagrada Familia.

In his early period, Gaudi’s works are influenced by different styles from architectural eras: the Mudejar Style can be seen in the earlier period works and expressive morphology in the golden age of Casa Mila, the Park Guel and the crypt at the church of the Colonia Guell.

There are two principles in Gaudi’s early works stated by Cirlot, and I added one: The ornamentation has been, is and will always be coloring his architecture which he conceived as being within nature. During this period, he was still on his way discovering, through his training, his sensibility of understanding mechanics and shapes which made his work in this period dominated by flat surfaces and traditional formula enriched by decorations.  He was trying to introduce repetition of the use of catenary and parabolic shapes on the façade. In some of them, he tried to do it on the facade to refer to the economic of the building such as in St. Theresia College or even to integrate the shapes to the structure. With his close relationship with the stone masonry club, he was capable of introducing the shapes in greater scale and with more repetitions. What interesting in this early works is that he dressed like a dandy, a man unduly devoted to style, neatness, and fashion in outfit and appearance. Surely his affinity with his patron, Eusabi Guell, made him such designer that could experiment his three principles in his projects.
In his maturity period (1892 – 1914), along the growth of his inventive creativity, his personality was transformed and his religiousness was confirmed; his refusal of the external things was increased which can be seen on the way he dressed: more modest, humble, and not as dandy as before. In this period, Gaudi’s work showed universal totality of the four principles(1):

1. Modifying metal as structure which sparked the industrial revolution in Europe:

by separating structure and the building facade like in Casa Mila, he made such interesting curtain walls that was not flat but concave (having an outline or surface that curves inward like the interior of a circle or sphere) or convex (having an outline or surface curved like the exterior of a circle or sphere).

2. Pushing the boundary of integrating architecture as sculpture:

so that the building could create the total image which could be referred to head of a dragon (in Casa Figueras), body of a dragon (in Casa Batllo), stone work or La Pedrera (in Casa Mila), catenary with trencandes, one mozaic technic, elaborated from tile arrangement in his early works inspired by Mudejar Architecture (in Parc Guell).

3. Inventing his originality:

that was by using his knowledge of traditional architecture to descry the new architectural structure that was based on mechanics and experiments such as catenaries. The cone or the parabolic or spindly tower, were the essential expressive elements of this conception, along with the ground plan distribution of the whole that symbolically defines the idea of totality (center surrounded by a series of four or seven elements)

4. Innovating integration of mechanical electrical and architecture:

for instance by integrating shaft in the center of void in the Casa Mila. (What makes me curious is that he also faced the same problem with us in our contemporary practice: how the building integrates to achieve the highest of building performance in term of its cost and ease of maintenance)

Something, someone, or and events must drove him into this level of energy. It’s like a devotion for something great in his life which I think must made him suffering, facing great loss and failures in his life. In order to make great signature, usually the creator (which in this text refers to Gaudi) must face such tremendous sadness in life. Why? Because that is life, the mixture between sadness and happiness. Because of the fact that both sides which are always paradox, the more you get one side, the surer you will face the other side of it. This got me thinking about events in his life and I started to read books and travelled to some Gaudi’s other work to explore the visual richness of his work, to explore his life as visionary who live in the middle of society of man, to understand his position in creating antecedent in history of Catalan, modern, Moorish, Gothic, rationalistic, Baroque architecture and to find his organic architecture by looking at the nature.

 

He has some tremendous loss or sadness in his life. Through the death of two of his brother “in the new Gaudi-Cornet home”, fate initially brought a couple more tears and sorrows than joys. Two children died at an early age. But it is written that “there is a time to weep and a time to rejoice, a time to grieve and a time to dance.” (2) The death of Francesco-his brother-qualified doctor at the age of 25, the death of his mother Antonia Cornet also died two years later, and the death of his sister, Rosa 3 years after. Gaudi had to survive while he was still 27 years-old, he had to take care of his father who was 66 and his niece who was only 3. The death of one of his greatest patron, his supporter, his client who understood his creativity, and who made Gaudi created his masterpiece during his early and mature period brought Gaudi such great loss amidst his fame in the city.  In addition to that, he often had to encounter the public when media criticised him because his problem with his client in designing Casa Mila, the Mila family; He, after winning the case in court, gave all of the money he received to the monastery. In the end he felt alone; devoting all of his time, he moved to his workshop on site, working on La Sagrada Familia. (3)

During my period of designing architecture, the inspiration from Gaudi sparks creativity within, which I always believe is about the genius in our mind, body and spirit. He kept recovering from his sadness in life, it helps us to relieve some of pain, or probably even showing one great example of a visionary human being. In architect’s life there are ups and downs, I believe there were failures of what he had done in his life, but about Gaudi, on top of his failures, seeing it from human perspective, this man’s effort on his creation was tremendous.

“In general, when most people are working on a project and near its termination, they tend to hurry and are satisfied with the results. This is a mistake; when a project is on the way to perfection, we must squeeze it until it is perfect”

It made us feel glad that we have his creation and his energy in his building, then we might feel it and honour him as one of the greatest architect ever lived.

 

 

 

Bibliography:
[1] It’s recommended book written by Juan Eduardo Cirlot, Pere Vivas, Ricard Pla titled Complete works of Gaudi. “A complete photographic anthology of Gaudi´s work in a large format book designed by America Sanchez, which includes a meticulous selection of images where technical quality and aesthetics are combined. This book brings together twelve years of photographic works dedicated to the architecture of Antoni Gaudi.” (http://www.amazon.com/Gaudi-Juan-Eduardo-Cirlot/dp/8484780341)

[2] Gaudi spirit actualising his spirituality is described briefly in Gaudi God’s Architect written by associacio pro Beatificacio D’Antoni Gaudi. You can also watch the movie in youtube here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnNwpmdWm1w)
[3] The loss of Gaudi in his life is written in Gaudi the life of visionary written by J. Castellar – Gassol. Hardcover, 142 pages Published 1999 by Edicions de 1984 Sharayu Gangurde wrote “A short read, somehow the book lags on why Antoni Gaudi was called a Visionary! Seven of his works are declared as World Heritage sites by UNESCO. There’s rarely any mention of his design philosophy or ideology or inspiration in the book. I was ecstatic to read something about the master of Organic architecture and sculpture, but it has none! The book celebrates more details of his contacts with the powerful in the society and less of his involvement with the art! It could have been so much more! ” (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3533968-gaudi)

[4] brief information explaining the outside inside situation of La Pedrera, can be read in Book titled La Pedrera A work of “total art” (http://www.amazon.co.uk/La-Pedrera-Work-Total-Art/dp/8484780201_)

Gaudi