14. Gaudí: The genius in transferring nature to architecture

This week marks the 170th anniversary of the birth of Antoni Gaudí, Spanish architect and maximum representative of Catalan modernism, and we celebrate it by remembering his works and his history.

Gaudi was born on June 25, 1852, in Reus, Catalonia, and spent his childhood there, where he could observe closely what would be his greatest reference throughout his life: nature.

He learned to contemplate nature without prejudice, based on the theory of ruled geometry, and his great architectural contribution, he defined four different surfaces -helicoid, hyperboloid, conoid and hyperbolic paraboloid-, all of them extracted from nature and transferred to architecture. He concluded that the geometries of nature were in many cases based on twisted surfaces, that is, curves in space but composed of straight lines that can be found with great frequency in plants, living things and mountains.

His work is known and applauded all over the world. Here are his 3 most emblematic projects and his influence on nature in architecture.

Sagrada Familia

The Sagrada Familia is a Catholic basilica in Barcelona, designed by the architect Antoni Gaudí, started in 1882, and is still under construction.

The central nave is supported by arborescent structures as he used to compare the columns to trees and the capitals to leaves. Inspired by the colorful nature, making the color illuminates and gives life to the interior through the stained glass windows causing different sensations in each of the facades.

Another example is in the inclined columns of the porch, in which the bases are much wider than the body, which helps to improve the support and the transmission of the inclined efforts towards the foundations, inspired by the ceibas that widen their base with tabular roots to improve their balance. And finally in the undulation of the roofs in which he alternates the highest points of the undulations in the different facades, alluding to the magnolia leaves and their way of evacuating water.

La Pedrera House

La Pedrera was built between 1906 and 1912. It was a personal commission by Pere Milà and Roser Segimon with the intention of living on the main floor of the building and renting the rest of the apartments.

La Pedrera is like a large block of stone modeled by the forces of nature, by the wind, by the water, by the waves of the sea; it looks like the shapes of caves, nests, anthills, mountains, of the banks of a river. In La Pedrera, there is no straight line, as in nature. The balconies are full of climbing plants, which give the sensation of a living building, integrated by independent and pulsating parts: an organism. With organic designs of various shapes that may recall elements elaborated by nature, such as turtle shells, butterfly wings or cellular tissues.

gaudi pedrera

Park Guell

The original idea for Park Güell was conceived in 1900, when Eusebi Güell bought a hillside on Carmel Mountain, on the outskirts of Barcelona, to create a housing development that he commissioned Gaudí to design.

The architect’s passion for the forms of nature can be perceived in every corner. Snails, mushrooms, leaves, flowers, trunks or elephants appear constantly in the mosaics, in the architectural forms, even the chimney bell of the janitors’ house is shaped like an inverted mushroom. One of the main innovations in this project was trencadis, a joining of ceramic scraps to create a mosaic. This use of recycling long before the term existed is a demonstration of the new mentality with which he designed.

“The architect of the future will rely on the imitation of nature because it is the most rational, durable and economical of all methods.”

“Originality consists in the return to the origin; thus, originality is that which returns to the simplicity of the first solutions.”

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