Unique and Creative Architecture

To me, one of the best things about travel is the architecture. I love to look at buildings, both in the United States and in other countries. Although I can recognize a flying buttress, I don’t really know much about it. Mostly I just know what I like. As an historian, architecture isn’t just beautiful. It gives clues about the culture that created it, and also the culture that either preserves or destroys it.

I remember the first time I saw photos of the work of the Catalan (Spain) architect, Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926). It was better than the fairy tale castle in Germany, and since then, Barcelona has been in the top 5 on the list of places I want to visit. Some things you just need to see up close and in person.

Portrait of Antoni Gaudí (1878) by Pablo Audouard Deglaire (1856 - 1919). Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Portrait of Antoni Gaudí (1878) by Pablo Audouard Deglaire (1856 – 1919). Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Most of you have probably heard of Gaudi and seen something that he created. He left a body of work that was unique and imaginative. He created not just buildings, but also parks and even lamp posts. His style was inspired by nature, utilizing more curves than straight lines.

Puerta de la Finca Miralles. Photo by Canaan via Wikimedia Commons.

Puerta de la Finca Miralles. Photo by Canaan via Wikimedia Commons.

But as for the man, most of us don’t know much about him except his work. As I’ve been reading about his life, he doesn’t fit the profile of our most famous artists.

He wasn’t from a wealthy or titled family. He was not involved in any scandals. His most outrageous behavior involved an arrest for his involvement in the cause of Catalan independence from Spain, a political battle that continues today. He was famous during his lifetime for his imagination and creativity, but he also had his critics, mostly those who don’t like change. But Gaudi always stayed true to his path and his vision.

Casa Mila. Photo by Olavfin via Wikimedia Commons.

Casa Mila. Photo by Olavfin via Wikimedia Commons.

Gaudi had rheumatism from a young age, which limited his activities as a child. He was a life-long vegetarian (before it was cool) in order to alleviate his illness. He spent most of his adult life living with and caring for his father and his niece. He never married, although it is rumored that he had fallen in love with a woman who did not return his affections.

My personal favorite, Casa Batllo. Photo by tato grasso via Wikimedia Commons.

My personal favorite, Casa Batllo. Photo by tato grasso via Wikimedia Commons.

Most importantly, Gaudi was a man of faith. He was a Catholic who, at least at the end of his life, went to church daily for prayer and confession. One of his most famous works, the Sagrada Familia, is a church that he devoted the last decade of his life to building. (It’s actually still not complete, although there is hope it will be done by 2026, the centennial of his death.)

Sagrada Familia interior. Photo by Charles Curling via Wikimedia Commons.

Sagrada Familia interior. Photo by Charles Curling via Wikimedia Commons.

Gaudi died as the result of a traffic accident. He was hit by a tram, and due to his humble attire, it was believed that he was a vagabond and he was not given immediate aid. By the time he was identified, it was too late to save him. He was interred in a crypt at Sagrada Familia.

One humble man who continues to make a huge impact on the world.

Park Guell. Photo by Canaan via Wikimedia Commons.

Park Guell. Photo by Canaan via Wikimedia Commons.

The famous mosaic salamander at Park Guell. Photo by Valérie et Agnès via Wikimedia Commons.

The famous mosaic salamander at Park Guell. Photo by Valérie et Agnès via Wikimedia Commons.

Astorga Palacio. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Astorga Palacio. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

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About Cathy Hanson

I’m a military brat and grew up on Air Force bases around the world. I discovered my love for history when I was 14 years old and the U.S. Air Force transferred my family to a base in England. Traveling from castles to cathedrals to ruins to cities, I felt the stories of these places and understood that history is not solely about events whose dates we are required to memorize. History is stories. My passion for those stories led me to a master’s degree in history.

Please feel free to comment, ask questions, supply answers, or tell me your favorite history resource or artifact.

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