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Antoni Gaudí and the Modernista Architecture in Barcelona

Modernista Architecture

Modernista design combines Classical and Gothic elements with modern symbols form the Catalan culture and mythology and format the nature such as trees, flowers, animals, etc. In fact, Modernista design is full of life and imagination. Another characteristics is the use of curve and colorful lines. Colors were usually bright. For Modernista architects symbolism and ornamentation were indispensable but they avoided symmetrical elements.

Who was Antoni Gaudí?

Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926) was a well-known Catalan architect who was the biggest representative of Modernista design. In fact, according to many opinion, Gaudí and Modernista are equal (for additional information – Architecture in Barcelona).

He was born in Baix Camp county in Catalonia. But the exact settlement is not known. It is not sure if he was born in Reu or in Riudoms. His artistic talent was not something unique in his family because he was born to an artist family. He studied architecture at the School of Architecture in Barcelona where he was living in the next part of his life.

At the beginning, Gaudí was influenced by the Catalan Gothic architectures, especially by the French architect Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, who was one of the leaders of the neo-Gothic concept, but soon Gaudí began to create buildings in a completely original style that expressed his passion for architecture, religion and nature.

The Characterisitcs of the Style of Antoni Gaudí

The motifs that appeared already in his first works and that remained characteristics of his style until his death were organic forms, such as shells and reptiles, arches, and forms that made the illusion of water flow. These were combined with different neo-Gothic elements such as frightening animal statues, mosaics of colorful porcelain fragments decorating the facades of many buildings designed by him. Gaudí always used original materials like stained glass, ceramic tiles and iron.

Gaudí was careful to explore and develop his architectural style continuously, he prepared a table of materials suitable for work and he included also their concentration. He created miniature models of the statues he had built and carried out many experiments where he tested if the arches that he designed are durable enough.

The Relationship Between Gaudí and the Residents of Barcleona

Although today it seems that Gaudí and Barcelona are equal, at the beginning of Gaudi’s career his innovative style was not welcomed with open arms by the residents of the city. For example, Casa Milà, which was his first major work, was named initially by them “La Pedrera” which can be considered to be a nickname, it means “the quarry”. The fact that he was supported by the rich industrialist Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi did not contribute to his popularity.

Slowly, Gaudi’s works became more and more popular and he started to receive appreciation for his work. He was respected also for being a passionate Catalan artist who spoke only Catalan. Due to these, a strong relationship was formed between the architect and the residents of Barcelona.

His final works were very popular between the inhabitants of the city, Park Güell was appreciated for his design and architectural characteristics. Nevertheless, Eusebi Güell, who was the financial sponsor of the project, was not very popular in the city. La Sagrada Familia was his last work and he did not finished it until his death. Actually, the church is still being built, according to the plans it will be finished in 2026, which will be the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death. Today Gaudí is one of the main icons of the city.

Death of Gaudí

Like other great artists, Gaudí died during working on his masterpiece. He was hit by an electric train near the Sagrada Familia in 1926. According to a legend, the accident took place because Gaudí was looking at the church and at its towers and not at the train tracks. Although it is a well known legend, there is no evidence that proves this story.

Works of Gaudí in Barcelona

Most of the works designed by Antoni Gaudí are located in the Eixample district of Barcelona. However, you can admire his art in other parts of the city too. If you would like to get more details about the works of the famous architect you can read a bit about the most significant ones in the following part of the page.

Casa Vicens

Casa Vicens is one of the first works of Gaudí. It was built for the Vincens family which was one of the richest Catalan families. The design of the building combines Islamic elements with Gaudi’s “regular” construction style. Today the house is owned privately.

It is not one of the must-see attractions of Barcelona but if you are shopping on Passeig de Gracia, it is worth to take a look at the impressive house that is situated on Carrer de les Carolines.

For additional information visit the website:

Palau Güell (Güell Palace)

Palau Güell (Güell Palace) is the first piece that Gaudi built for Eusebi Güell who was his rich patron who helped him to become a famous architect by giving him an unlimited budget despite being an inexperienced artist. Palau Güell is located on La Rambla.

The structure contains a first version of Gaudi’s motifs, such as arches, strange chimneys, figures of different animals, neo-Gothic symbols and elements that refer to the ancient Catalan mythology. Like most of Guadi’s works, all the small objects on the building were designed and built be the famous architect himself.

Casa Calvet

Casa Calvet is a Modernista building situated in Eixample on Carrer de Casp. It was built by Gaudí for a textile factory (in order to sell it). The house is one of the less interesting buildings designed by Gaudí.

Cripta de la Colònia Güell (Church of Colònia Güell)

Cripta de la Colònia Güell is an construction designed by Gaudí. It was built for the workers of Eusebi Güell’s (Gaudi’s patron’s) textile factory at the request of Güell. The construction was halted in 1915, seven years after its inception, due to the financial losses of Güell.

The church was built using special techniques that characterize Gaudí, The use of these techniques proves that Gaudi’s constructions required an exact engineering calculations that are considered extremely complicated even in our computerized days.

Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló is a Modernista building renovated by Gaudí. Some specialists say that when designing this masterpiece, Gaudí was inspired by the popular legend of the destruction of a dragon by St. George. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

La Pedrera – Casa Milà

La Pedrera – Casa Milà is another unique neo-gothic building in Barcelona visited by many tourists. This was Gaudi’s last project before Sagrada Familia. Its nickname, “La Pedrera”, comes from citizens of Barcelona because at the beginning they were not very enthusiastic about the unusual construction. The meaning of this name is “The Quarry”. Later, due to its extraordinary and colorful design it has become one of the city’s icons.

Park Güell

Park Güell was designed by Gaudí for the wealthy residents of Barcelona. Today it is a popular public park where a nice time can be spent and several works of Gaudí can be admired, for example the Lizard statue.

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia can be considered to be the main icon of Barcelona and the best Modernista work of Gaudí. It is an impressive church full of neo-Gothic imagination and vitality. Both the inside and the outside of the building is extremely attractive. Together with many other Modernista buildings, it is situated in Eixample.

Tips and Recommendations

  • If you want to admire the works of Gaudi you do not need to go inside of the buildings constructed by him. You can take a free tour in Barcelona and you will see the most interesting pieces of Gaudi’s portfolio. Of course if you are more interested in this topic you can enter some of the buildings or if you want you can buy a ticket that is valid for all of them. These kinds of tickets can be purchased at Sagrada Familia.
  • It is highly recommended to join a guided tour in Barcelona about Gaudi and his works (for additional information – Attractions and Tours near Eixample and Attractions and Tours in Barcelona).
  • The works of Gaudi are full of colors and imagination. Therefore they are recommended even for little children (for additional information – Kids and Families in Barcelona).
  • Besides the constructions of Gaudi you can find many attraction in Barcelona that are connected to the great architect, for example in Park Güell there is a small museum dedicated to him. Near this park you can visit Gaudí Experiència (Gauid Experience) where you can enjoy the architect’s works in 4D. This attraction is relatively new, it was opened just in 2012 and it is very popular with families. Additionally, in La Pedrera – Casa Milà you can participate in Gaudi’s Pedrera: The Origins which is an interesting night show. It is another popular attraction with families, so we suggest that if you have time and money do not miss it (for additional information – Visit Casa Milà at night).


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