Education and Early Professional Life:
Gaudí had his first contact
with school in 1860, at the age of seven, at the kindergarten on Monterols
de Reus Street run by Francesc Berenguer, father of one of Gaudí’s future
collaborators, architect Francesc Berenguer (1866-1914).
His secondary education began in 1863, when Gaudí was eleven, at the
Escoles Pies of Reus, located in the old convent of Sant Francesc. His
report cards, still preserved, show him to have been an average student who
performed better over time. His health also improved enough to allow him to
go on school field trips. Gaudí also became involved in extracurricular
activities, such as being illustrator of the school’s weekly newspaper (The
Harlequin), and delving into set design for the school theatre. Two
friends he met via these pursuits—Eduard Toda and Josep Ribera—would later
collaborate with Gaudí on the reconstruction of the Monastery of Poblet.
In 1868, Gaudí moved to Barcelona with his brother Francesc to study at the
Intermediate Teaching Institute. Later, once he had passed that stage of
education to enroll in the Provincial School of Architecture, Gaudí had to
pass three subject tests, in addition to three more tests given by the
Faculty of Sciences. Having passed all of these exams, he was finally able
to enroll at the Provincial School of Architecture in 1873 and begin the
six-course program: one entry-level course, a second preparatory course, and
four further courses.
Meanwhile, Gaudí’s whole family had relocated to Barcelona. With Eduard
Toda and Josep Ribera, he also had begun the project of restoring the
Monastery of Poblet, mentioned above—a project that would culminate some
years later and which revealed the architectural leanings of young Gaudí.
In that same year in which he began his architecture studies, 1873, he began
collaborating with Francesc de Paula Villar i Lozano—the first architect of
the Sagrada Família—and Martorell i Sala, who would later be instrumental
due to his appointment as architectural director of the Sagrada Família.
To pay his tuition, Gaudí worked with Josep Fontseré on the Parc de la
Ciutadella (especially the monumental fountain), the Mercat del Born, and
other projects. He also worked for Francesc de Paula Villar on the small
altar chapel and apse of the Església de la Mare de Deu of Montserrat
(1886-87), and for Joan Martorell, whom he helped construct the Salesian
Convent and the Jesuit church on Casp Street in Barcelona (1882-89).
For the next few years, Gaudí simultaneously continued his studies and
supplemented them with other activities, such as competing for the contract
to design a “pantheon of music” for Anselm Clavé, director of the Orfeo
Català—but Gaudí and many others had to stand aside for the winning design
Lluís Domènech i Montaner
and Josep Vilaseca (fathers of the Palau de la Música Catalana). In 1875,
he completed the water tower for the reservoir for the Parc de la
Ciutadella. On July 7, 1874, Gaudí began service in the Spanish infantry.
He was subsequently transferred into the Military Administration Department
in December 1876, where he remained until the end of his service in 1877.
After the Carlist War ended, Gaudí was declared Benemèrit de la Pàtria
(distinguished veteran), even though he never saw combat. The army records
reveal many curious facts about the enlisted Gaudí, such as that he was
described as a draftsman, that his file did not mention whether he was born
in Reus or Riudoms, and that he had to pay 37.25 pesetas for his own
The year 1876 proved to be a tragic one for Gaudí, as both his mother
and his brother Francesc passed away. Their deaths spawned a severe
religious crisis for Gaudí, but he continued his work, now as a machine
draftsman for the firm of Padrós i Borràs. He also completed various school
projects. The following year, in 1877, Gaudí submitted an industrial design
for a competition held by the Atheneum of Barcelona’s School of Applied
Arts, but his design did not win.
Throughout his time at university, Gaudí supplemented his architecture
studies with classes in history, philosophy, economics, and aesthetics, as
he was interested in developing a global vision of the world that naturally
would powerfully influence his architectural conceptions, to which Gaudí
would apply not only his aesthetic, but also his political and social,
Architectural Studies Come to an End:
The year 1878
was crucial for Gaudí, since it was then that he took his final
graduation exam (January 4), and then that he was officially
bestowed with the title of architect (March 15). The Director of
the Superior Technical School of Architecture had recommended Gaudí
and three other students to the Rector of the University for the
Titile of Architect on Feburary 11, 1878. That same year, Gaudí met
Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi—Count Güell—for whom he would build a very
important part of his commissions. (See
During this time, Gaudí lived in various flats in Barcelona with his
father and his mentally unstable niece, Rossita Egea Gaudí, whom he
looked after upon his sister Rosa’s death in 1879. Gaudí completed
several projects having nothing to do with architecture, but rather
with decorative arts and furniture, two arts to which he devoted
himself with great attention throughout his life. Some of these
Furnishings for the pantheon-chapel of the first Marquès de Comillas.
Streetlamps commissioned by the mayor of Barcelona for the Plaça
case of wrought iron, glass, and wood commissioned by
glovemaking entrepreneur Esteve Comella in which to display his
wares at the World’s Fair in Paris
in Sant Gervasi
for the Workers’ Cooperative of Mataró
florist’s kiosk; and
begun that summer about architecture, entitled The Reus
Gaudí’s professional life unfolded in Barcelona, where he conceived the most
fundamental part of his works. The social situation in which he lived—an
era of strong economic and urbanistic development in Barcelona, the
patronage of a powerful middle class desirous of bringing itself into line
with the dominant European movements, all coinciding with the Catalan
Renaixença—served as a “cultural broth” for Gaudí’s unbounded fantasy and
Naturally, his professional activities developed in the most prestigious
architectural studios of the day. The studio of Francesc Villar i Lozano
was one of the most prominent, as he was the architect of the Bishopric of
Barcelona and first architect of the
Sagrada Família. Gaudí collaborated with Villar on the small altar
Chapel of the Virgin at the Monastery of Montserrat.
Gaudí’s collaboration with other prestigious professionals of the time has
already been commented upon; these connections, among them Martorell i Sala
and Josep Fontseré, allowed him to perfect his knowledge of architectonic
Very little information exists
about Gaudí’s personal life, and even less about his romantic life. We do
know, however, a few details about his platonic relationship with Pepeta
Moreu, a svelte redhead he met in Mataró while they were both trying to
finishing the Workers’ Cooperative project. Their dalliance was apparently
less than intense, and Moreu finally left him to marry a rich industrialist,
Josep Caballol, after whose death she remarried, this time to Josep Vidal i
Gomis, a well-known cinema entrepreneur in Barcelona. One biographer, Joan
Bergós, talks in his book Antoni Gaudí, Architectural Genius: Life and
Works (1972) of three frustrated relationships, but the truth is that no
details have survived on the other two women (besides Moreu)—not even their
Most of Gaudí’s biographers agree that Gaudí’s love life was practically
non-existent, confirming the suspicions of his niece, Rossita Egea, who
tells us that he never had amorous relations and never even looked at
women. This dearth of female relationships has led some authors to suggest
the architect was homosexual, but this conclusion has absolutely no basis in
any historical document and therefore must be considered highly improbable.
Emotionally, then, Gaudí seems always to have been a timid and reserved soul
with an almost totally non-existent love life, according to biographer J.J.
Navarro Arisa. In reality, the professional world surrounding Gaudí was a
completely masculine one, and not even the presence of his niece Rossita
altered that arrangement.
Time of Plenty:
Gaudí enjoyed an architecturally full
life from 1883-1917, beginning with the
Vicens House in
a villa in Cantabria. Count Eusebi Güell charged him with the construction
of the entrance, caretaker’s house, and stables for his
country estate in Pedralbes.
Although relatively small in scope, this project was of notable importance
for the very revolutionary architectonic criteria Gaudí would develop in his
future works and for the Catalan symbols he included from Jacint Verdaguer’s
epic nationalistic poem L’Atlàntida (Atlantis)—such as the
garden of the Hesperides. The wrought iron
the entrance between the main two groups of buildings has become one of the
symbols of the city of Barcelona.
Besides his intensive study of architecture, Gaudí was very intrigued by
aspects of Catalan national history. To that end, he was heavily involved
in the city’s cultural sector, and it was during this period that he
traveled and worked with other Catalan artists who shared his uncertainties
about Catalunya’s cultural future. Two of his excursions merit particular
mention: his trip to the Monastery of Poblet and his meeting with Catalan
nationalists on the other side of the Pyrenees in Elna (Roussillon),
accompanied by Verdaguer, Marià Aguiló, Àngel Guimerà, Masriera, and others.
The level of activity of Gaudí’s architectural studio began to intensify,
with a team of professionals directed by the devoted Francesc Berenguer. In
1885, Gaudí completed the first stage of the floor plan of the Sagrada
The period of extraordinary urban expansion of Barcelona occurring during
the last years of the nineteenth century was also intense for Gaudí, who in
1884 received a commission from Count Güell to build his private residence,
on Carrer Nou de la Rambla (now known as Carrer Conde de Asalto). This
palace, finished in 1889, revealed that Gaudí had already concretized the
basic characteristics of his civic structures early on—internal coherence;
light, airy, but at the same time austere, even disquieting,
spaces—according to Gaudí biographer Navarro Arisa. The Palau played a very
important role at the Barcelona World’s Fair of 1888, for the ceremonies
observed there gave some idea of the prestige of Count Güell. Gaudí
achieved this feat in a relatively small space: a lot only 22m x 18m. The
interior seems infinitely larger than possible behind such a small, sober
exterior, a testimony to Gaudí’s brilliant talent for creating exceptionally
original and functional spaces.
In 1887, Gaudí accepted a commission from Bishop Joan Baptista Grau i
Villespinós to build the
Episcopal Palace of Astorga,
which would prove very difficult for Gaudí—especially since the bishop died,
and the project ended up aborted. The palace was not completed until much
later, under the direction of different architects. Amid all this frenetic
activity, Gaudí took over the commission for the already-begun
Col·legi de Santa Teresa
in 1889. With this project, like the Sagrada Família, Gaudí had to continue
with an advanced structure—the walls were already two meters high. The
rectangular 58m x 18m building has a surprising simplicity hinting at the
mysticism of the founder of the order of Saint Teresa. Perhaps the most
unique architectural contribution to this structure is the parabolic arch,
repeated with notably brilliant effect.
In December 1891, Gaudí created the blueprints for the
Botines House in León.
The following year, he began constructing the
Nativity façade of the Sagrada
Familia , and
only a year later drafted plans for the
the Colònia Güell.
In 1895, Eusebi Güell commissioned Gaudí to being work on the
wine cellar in
Garraf (now known as the Celler Güell), which was finished in 1901. The
hand of Francesc Berenguer is so visible in this structure that some authors
consider him, rather than Gaudí, as its architect.
In the decisive year of 1898, Gaudí began three very important works: the
Calvet House (finished in 1900), the
Park Güell (whoe components would take
until 1914 to complete, since they were interrupted by financial
difficulties during these years), and the
Figueras House, also known as
Bellesguard (finished in 1909).
Between 1901 and 1903, Gaudí completed some minor works, such as the fence
Finca Miralles, and the Catllaràs Villa, and took his first steps to
go study the interior remodeling underway at the Cathedral of Palma de
Mallorca, of which he was put in charge by Bishop Campins and which after
ten years were still left uncompleted.
The following years were crucial, since Gaudí undertook some of his most
essential works: the remodeling of
Batlló House, the
Mila House - La Pedrera,
crypt of the Colònia Güell.
On October 23, 1906, Gaudí’s father, Francesc Gaudí i Serra, passed away at
the ageof 93 in the Casa Gaudí in the
Gaudí House in the Park Güell, in which he had lived with
Gaudí since the previous year. Casa Batlló received a prize from the
Barcelona City Council as one of the best constructions of the year. In
1917, he designed the Passion façade of the Sagrada Família.
During his final years, Gaudí
concentrated on building the Sagrada Família. As a consequence of
the progressive evolution of his religious faith, he undertook a
profound analysis of all aspects of the Catholic faith, including
the liturgy, the symbols of which he incorporated in minute detail
into his stone temple.
Gaudí lived in the basement of the Sagrada Família for the last year
of his life. On June 7, 1926, the No. 30 streetcar struck Gaudí on
the Gran Via Avenue of Barcelona, between Bailèn and Girona streets. His
simple clothes kept him from being recognized at first, and he was
taken to the
de la Santa Creu, where he was later
identified and where on June 10, 1926, he died surrounded by
friends. He was buried in the chapel of the
Virgin del Carme in the crypt of the Sagrada Família.
years of obscurity and criticism his work suffered at the hands of
the Noucentisme movement, Gaudí is today celebrated the world over,
by specialists and the general public alike.