Obviously no Barcelona blog would be complete without a post or two about our beloved Antoni Gaudi, although if you think I can be @rsed to write a bona fide biography think again. That’s what Wikipedia is for! However as he was a strange character indeed I thought it might be fun to list some of the more interesting and lesser-known facts about the architect who became synonymous with this city… (and whereas I can personally promise that I didn’t make any of these up, I can’t promise that the sources I cribbed them from didn’t, so feel free to season these factoids with a little salt where required).
1) During his lifetime a large proportion of people thought Gaudi was crap. That includes Pablo Picasso and George Orwell (both Barcelona residents for a time), the latter of whom described La Sagrada Familia as one of the world’s most hideous buildings.
2) Similar to the above note, the only project the City of Barcelona ever assigned him was the design of street lights (you can see some on Plaza Real). In fact authorities repeatedly tried to prevent construction on many of his works as he had a habit of flouting building regulations with his expansive extensions. Naturally he ignored them.
3) He did however win the Building of the Year award for his rather ordinary (by his standards) Casa Calvet.
4) He was a sickly child: rheumatism made him the last kid to be picked for footie practice and (get out the salt) consequently he often travelled around on a donkey.
5) He was a vegetarian.
6) His muse was Mother Nature. A great observer he was inspired by the architecture of the natural world, which he studied during frequent walks in the countryside or even trips to the caves of Montserrat. Just check out any of Gaudi’s buildings to see the direct incorporation of God’s own handiwork.
7) He believed in God. Fervently.
8) He didn’t believe in new shoes. How they chafed his sensitive soles! Hence he would give them to his brother to wear in first.
9) He never married
10) He was a keen recycler, using broken industrial tiles to decorate the likes of Park Guell.
11) He was a Catalan nationalist and was (briefly) arrested in 1924 for refusing to speak Spanish to a policeman on Diada des Catalanes (the day marking the Spanish conquest of Catalonia in 1714).
12) But he hardly looked Catalan, with his bright blonde hair and blue eyes.
13) He was run over by a tram in 1926 and died three days later.
14) He never did finish La Sagrada Familia… despite working on it for 40 years. Nor has anyone else as yet.
15) When Gaudí graduated in 1878 from Barcelona’s School of Architecture, its director announced: “Gentlemen, we are here today in the presence of either a genius or a madman.”