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Gaudi: A Biography

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At the time of his death in 1926, Antoni Gaudí was arguably the most famous architect in the world. He had created some of the greatest and most controversial masterpieces of modern architecture, which were as exotic as they were outrageous. But little is known about the shadowy figure behind the swirling, vivid buildings that inspired the Surrealists. This masterful biogra At the time of his death in 1926, Antoni Gaudí was arguably the most famous architect in the world. He had created some of the greatest and most controversial masterpieces of modern architecture, which were as exotic as they were outrageous. But little is known about the shadowy figure behind the swirling, vivid buildings that inspired the Surrealists. This masterful biography brings both man and architect powerfully to life against the changing backdrop of Barcelona and Catalonia. Gijs van Hensbergen leads us through the design and construction of Gaudí’s most significant buildings -- revealing their innovation and complexity, and demonstrating the growing relevance of Gaudí’s architecture today.


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At the time of his death in 1926, Antoni Gaudí was arguably the most famous architect in the world. He had created some of the greatest and most controversial masterpieces of modern architecture, which were as exotic as they were outrageous. But little is known about the shadowy figure behind the swirling, vivid buildings that inspired the Surrealists. This masterful biogra At the time of his death in 1926, Antoni Gaudí was arguably the most famous architect in the world. He had created some of the greatest and most controversial masterpieces of modern architecture, which were as exotic as they were outrageous. But little is known about the shadowy figure behind the swirling, vivid buildings that inspired the Surrealists. This masterful biography brings both man and architect powerfully to life against the changing backdrop of Barcelona and Catalonia. Gijs van Hensbergen leads us through the design and construction of Gaudí’s most significant buildings -- revealing their innovation and complexity, and demonstrating the growing relevance of Gaudí’s architecture today.

30 review for Gaudi: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    Van Hensbergen's ambitious biography of Antoni Gaudi attempts to contextualize the social, religious, and political atmosphere of Barcelona and Catalan to elucidate the personality and motivations of Gaudi and his art. While informative, the author's focus on the nationalistic and Catholic roots of Gaudi's designs does not go far enough in adequately explaining the eclectic and fantastical elements of his work. Gaudi lived the life of a fervent Catholic and Catalan nationalist in that order, his Van Hensbergen's ambitious biography of Antoni Gaudi attempts to contextualize the social, religious, and political atmosphere of Barcelona and Catalan to elucidate the personality and motivations of Gaudi and his art. While informative, the author's focus on the nationalistic and Catholic roots of Gaudi's designs does not go far enough in adequately explaining the eclectic and fantastical elements of his work. Gaudi lived the life of a fervent Catholic and Catalan nationalist in that order, his eccentric style seems to serve as a sort of mental or artistic release from the traditions and structures of his daily life.

  2. 5 out of 5

    John

    I bought this in Barcelona in 2005 and it’s sat on my shelf ever since waiting for the right time to be read. This summer’s family holiday to Barcelona and Girona felt the right time. It was a dry read and very factual by circumstances: a lot of Gaudi’s own writings have been lost. It gallops through his life detailing his birth, school years and professional life in perfunctory detail and introduced me to some of his works I was unfamiliar with but in terms of understanding the man, identifying I bought this in Barcelona in 2005 and it’s sat on my shelf ever since waiting for the right time to be read. This summer’s family holiday to Barcelona and Girona felt the right time. It was a dry read and very factual by circumstances: a lot of Gaudi’s own writings have been lost. It gallops through his life detailing his birth, school years and professional life in perfunctory detail and introduced me to some of his works I was unfamiliar with but in terms of understanding the man, identifying his inspirations and sources it was sadly lacking. Would I recommend it? No. Read a brief online biog then go see his works.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Steve Schinke

    You need to a have an understanding of architectural styles and possess a deep knowledge of Catholicism to really appreciate this biography. I have neither, so it was a tough read for me. It did give me a broad feel for events leading up to the Spanish Civil War and insights into the man, so overall, it was a worthwhile read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Altonmann

    If you intend to read Gaudi: A Biography by Gijs van Hensbergenthis book, be sure to obtain a copy of: Gaudi by Pere Vivas (Photographer) published by Triangle books. The photos are necessary to fully understand the biography. If you prefer only one book, make it the Pere Vivas book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Roger Kerr

    Fantastic to learn about the human behind the architecture! Reading this was a task though. Full of Catalan history and words which are difficult to process. Fascinating story about the architect Antoni Gaudi

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alex Dimaio

    I’ve toured many of his pieces. The tours provided more insight into the designs and their meaning. This book was more a historical account of Gaudi’ Barcelona. Not much text about the process or the inspiration.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Leanne

    This is a review of the two perfect books to read before you travel to Barcelona to see Gaudi: Antonio Gaudi: Master Architect, by Juan Bassegoda Nonell https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... and Gaudi: A Biography, by Gijs van Hensbergen. I approached both books with two questions in mind. 1) What about Gaudi's work could have drawn the love and admiration of the Japanese in the way it seems to do. At first glance the two traditions seem to have little in common--and yet in Japan there has been This is a review of the two perfect books to read before you travel to Barcelona to see Gaudi: Antonio Gaudi: Master Architect, by Juan Bassegoda Nonell https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... and Gaudi: A Biography, by Gijs van Hensbergen. I approached both books with two questions in mind. 1) What about Gaudi's work could have drawn the love and admiration of the Japanese in the way it seems to do. At first glance the two traditions seem to have little in common--and yet in Japan there has been a tremendous Gaudi boom (I first learned of his greatness only in Japan, and there is probably a lot more information on him in Japanese than in English). And 2) Which are the absolute must-sees for an upcoming trip. Both books get a 5/5 for excellent writing (I own all of van Hensbergen's work) and Bassegoda's writing is absolutely inspired. Photography is also stunning. So, why the Japanese? Asymmetry and a love of curved lines; as well as art inspired by the natural forms found in nature is the easy answer. "God is found in nature" was given in one Japanese text... the sublime is found in nature. I also think the idea of modeling might resonate with Japanese aesthetics. Gaudi did not like to work from drawings and relied much more on modeling than many other traditions. He did draw and was a brilliant draftsman but Bassegoda stresses the three dimensional focus in his prep work. Japanese architecture also tends toward a resistance to straight geometric lines and angles. Nature based and following the laws of gravity; think of all the rope with bags of metal he used to derive his famous arches--this is maybe different from mathematically derived angles and arches we are used to. Another surprising link is John Ruskin, William Morris and the arts and crafts movement. This is something I would never have guessed as inspiring Gaudi--but it seems that, other than Catalunya itself this was one of his major influences. And of course, the arts and crafts movement was hugely important in Japan. This means: beauty follows form. A pursuit of abstract beauty was never what Gaudi was trying to do and that is something both Ruskin and Morris especially would have applauded. I wanted to learn more about Sotoo Etsuro, the Japanese sculptor who moved to Barcelona and became the official sculptor of La Sagrada Familia--but there was not a lot of information about him in this book. Luckily, van Hensbergen described Sotoo workquite a lot in his other book, dedicated to gaudi and the Sagrada. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3... You can also learn about Sotoo in the movie, Sagrada: the Mystery of Creation. It is really moving, thanks in great part to the photography. According to Sotoo, it is impossible to understand Gaudi and the Sagrada Familia without understanding his faith. Van Hensbergen is really excellent in describing what a surprisingly pious man Gaudi was. This is something I would not have guessed given the exuberance of the buildings--which to me seem sexy and pagan and incredibly colorful. But I learned that this was a man whose Lenten fast nearly killed him, whose life revolved mainly around church and his work and who cared deeply for the poor. The man I imagined as a Picasso was not so at all... maybe he was a bit like Don Quixote? 2) So what are the must-sees? In addition to Gaudi tour, we will see La Sagrada, Casa Mila, Casa Batllo, and Park Guell & Gaudi House (if we can manage would love to see Crypt and Palau Guell).

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    This was a difficult read for me and I had to put it down for a while and read something else. But I returned to it and slogged my way through it. It was not until page 186 that I really got into it and was able to follow the narrative flow. Like the famous trencadís Modernist style that Gaudí fashioned, this book is really a collection of several pieces that abut and sometimes complement each other: a survey of Catalan culture and history (the best part, in my opinion); conceptualizations of Mo This was a difficult read for me and I had to put it down for a while and read something else. But I returned to it and slogged my way through it. It was not until page 186 that I really got into it and was able to follow the narrative flow. Like the famous trencadís Modernist style that Gaudí fashioned, this book is really a collection of several pieces that abut and sometimes complement each other: a survey of Catalan culture and history (the best part, in my opinion); conceptualizations of Modernist and Catalanist architecture (very difficult for me because I am not familiar with architectural terminology and the author did not make effective use of pictures to complement the work he was describing); and a biography of Gaudí (segments interspersed throughout the book). The author admits that there is scant primary material to work from and the hermit-like lifestyle that Gaudí led makes it difficult to delve into his personal history. For me the most difficult part of the book was the author's tendency to toss many names into the mix irrespective of how close or distant their relationship was to the architect. Often, the author only used first names and it was difficult to keep track of who was whom. It might have helped to have had a list of people involved in Gaudís life; van Hensbergen provides a chronology of Gaudís life, but it could have been expanded to include some names. Two egregious errors appear and while the author can be forgiven for missing this detail, the editor cannot. Especially if the editor works at HarperCollins. On page 46 The author chronicles Gaudi's (born in 1852) military service, citing "his acceptance into the infantry reserves in February 1975." Gaudí would have been 125 years old. On page 53 he recounts the destruction of the Cistercian monastery Poblet in 1935, but on page 16 he wrote that it was ransacked during in 1835, during the Carlist Wars (1833-1830). There are some other minor grammatical missteps later in the book, but these faults are impossible to overlook or forgive. I did not learn too much about Gaudí in the end. I have been to the Sagrada Familia and I have seen the Casa Milá, and I appreciated some of the context that Hensbergen provides behind these monumental works, but I just wish that it was more closely interwoven into the telling of Gaudí's life. It just seemed very disjointed to me. Park Güell is perhaps the ne plus ultra Gaudí symbol of Barcelona, yet, while we have a basic description of it, the only image we have of it is on the inside front and back covers of the books. How disappointing. There are many other biographies on Gaudí and I will read them. This one would not at the top of my list. I gave it a three-star rating instead of a two, because the author clearly did an immense amount of research and I respect that effort.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Hugh Coverly

    This biography sets out not to be a hagiography of the great Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. Towards the end it does become a bit hagiographic: waxing eloquent on Sagrada Família’s expressive spirituality and framing Gaudí’s death almost as a near martyrdom. Otherwise, Hensbergen does a fabulous job tracing Gaudí’s life from it humble beginnings through to both its highs and lows. I was particularly impressed with how Hensbergen portrays the great architect as a human person blessed with great g This biography sets out not to be a hagiography of the great Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. Towards the end it does become a bit hagiographic: waxing eloquent on Sagrada Família’s expressive spirituality and framing Gaudí’s death almost as a near martyrdom. Otherwise, Hensbergen does a fabulous job tracing Gaudí’s life from it humble beginnings through to both its highs and lows. I was particularly impressed with how Hensbergen portrays the great architect as a human person blessed with great gifts and talent, and as one with its foibles and faults. It deserves better illustrations, and in colour, however. The black and white drawings in the text are wonderful and does a great job of the reader understanding how Gaudí was seen and understood by his contemporaries.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    i don’t usually like biographies - apparently not enough biogs are about remarkable surrealist visions & railing against city councils when they f* up your elephant-foot column & eating lettuce dipped in milk with handfuls of nuts/seeds & molding serpentine benches to fit people & an impossible cathedral to fit heaven & of course gaudí was eccentric/arrogant/cantankerous (did you expect anything else?) “originality means going back to our origins,” insisted the guy who crafted a thin metal curta i don’t usually like biographies - apparently not enough biogs are about remarkable surrealist visions & railing against city councils when they f* up your elephant-foot column & eating lettuce dipped in milk with handfuls of nuts/seeds & molding serpentine benches to fit people & an impossible cathedral to fit heaven & of course gaudí was eccentric/arrogant/cantankerous (did you expect anything else?) “originality means going back to our origins,” insisted the guy who crafted a thin metal curtain from old textile-mill needles, made masterpieces from cracked pottery & designed a ceiling to look like a seabed. i felt at my most peaceful sitting in a screened porch & a rooftop he built, & having coffee early one morning looking up at that white plaster ceiling & suddenly seeing the sea.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Valentina

    If you don’t have an understanding of architectural styles and a knowledge of Catholicism, this book might be a hard one to read. I appreciated the information on events leading up to the Spanish Civil War and the historical moment Gaudi lived in. I enjoyed the book, although it feels more like a history book than a biography, I wished the author had written much more about a great Catalan architect, a real genius of extravagant architecture. I traveled to Barcelona and finally got to enjoy all If you don’t have an understanding of architectural styles and a knowledge of Catholicism, this book might be a hard one to read. I appreciated the information on events leading up to the Spanish Civil War and the historical moment Gaudi lived in. I enjoyed the book, although it feels more like a history book than a biography, I wished the author had written much more about a great Catalan architect, a real genius of extravagant architecture. I traveled to Barcelona and finally got to enjoy all of Gaudi’s work I read about in this book and more. Highly recommend this book if you love architecture.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Meaghan Flaherty

    this book was truly amazing. it was meticulously researched and i kept catching myself wondering how long it took the author to gather and organize all the information in it. it was surprisingly unbiased as well. i know a lot abt gaudi's buildings from a technical standpoint from school, but i had been missing all of the context in which his work existed and was a product of. imo it's not even fair to call this a biography; it was like a history book. great job by hensbergen. this really set a n this book was truly amazing. it was meticulously researched and i kept catching myself wondering how long it took the author to gather and organize all the information in it. it was surprisingly unbiased as well. i know a lot abt gaudi's buildings from a technical standpoint from school, but i had been missing all of the context in which his work existed and was a product of. imo it's not even fair to call this a biography; it was like a history book. great job by hensbergen. this really set a new standard for me as far as biographies and memoirs go.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Gabor Hernadi

    As I was reading the biography of the genius catalan architect I was overwhelmed the feeling, that he must be one of the ones whose art I just love but IRL I would have slap him in the face after 5 minutes. Very interesting to read how someone being a nationalist and bigoted catholic became the father one of of the most original architecture.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mike Pinter

    Very, very interesting man. Somehow, I'd have given the book 5 stars if the book had had a bit more "aftermath" regarding the following the life of his works in the decades following his death, an explanation of who took up the continuation of his cathedral, for example.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    Enjoyable book on the elusive Gaudi. Learned as much about Spain, Catalonia and Barcelona as about Gaudi. Which was perfectly intertwined in explaining him and who he was/what his architecture says.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jeroen Van de Crommenacker

    Interesting biography of a great architect.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Eline

    Interesting read!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jess Monnier

    Excellent biography on Gaudi. An interesting man during an interesting time. (Unlike a few other reviewers, I didn't find this book at all dry. I thought that it kept a good pace).

  19. 5 out of 5

    Graham Mulligan

    Gaudi, A Biography; Gijs van Hensbergen, 2001 Reviewed by Graham Mulligan In preparation for a trip to Barcelona I read Van Hensbergen’s excellent biography of Antoni Gaudi, the architect of the Sagrada Familia. Gaudi lived in a period of great transition, not just for Spain, but also for Europe and for art and ideas. He was born in 1852 during the Carlist Wars that divided Spain, characterized by liberalism versus traditionalism. By the close of the century Spanish society “had become increasingl Gaudi, A Biography; Gijs van Hensbergen, 2001 Reviewed by Graham Mulligan In preparation for a trip to Barcelona I read Van Hensbergen’s excellent biography of Antoni Gaudi, the architect of the Sagrada Familia. Gaudi lived in a period of great transition, not just for Spain, but also for Europe and for art and ideas. He was born in 1852 during the Carlist Wars that divided Spain, characterized by liberalism versus traditionalism. By the close of the century Spanish society “had become increasingly polarized. At one extreme anarchy, trade unionism and bohemianism flourished, while at the other extreme the Catholic hierarchy, the establishment and an increasingly reactionary government struggled to impose its authority”. Europe was industrializing while Spain continued to absorb wealth from its overseas colonies. Late nineteenth century romantics like Wagner, Walter Pater, Pugin, Ruskin, Holman Hunt and Baudelaire were loosening the bonds of neo-classicism in art. Barcelona was at the centre of Catalan culture that had grown from a small port city of tens of thousands in the early 1800’s to a rapidly expanding city of hundreds of thousands by the end of the century; (85,000 to 533,000 and life expectancy of 26 years). Population growth was not only from rural migration to the city but from other parts of the country where values and experience were different. What could so many immigrants know of Catalan culture? Van Hensbergen’s detailed explanations of the growth of Gaudi’s architectural style and of his unique personality open up the reader to this complex individual. Gaudi’s Catholicism was certainly central to his being but so was being Catalan. The Catholic Pope Leo XIII released the encyclical entitled Rerum Novarum in 1891 recognizing for the first time the importance of a living wage, worker’s rights and the positive role that unions might play, albeit only within Catholic parameters. It fit well with Gaudi’s notions of workers colonies and harmonious living in an ordered society. The idea of people living together as craftsmen and contributors to a well run community underlies the creation of Colonia Güell and later, Park Güell – “a living essay in Catalan nationhood and Catholic piety”. Don Eusebi Güell was a powerful industrial winner in a country that came late and little to industrialization. He was Catalan and Catholic, a painter and sponsor of plays, poetry and opera and eventually Gaudi’s patron. Having such a strong patron liberated Gaudi to indulge his own journey toward eccentrism. “Gaudi despised and distrusted the progressive young artists of Barcelona, who would soon include Picasso”. Stanley Payne, in his erudite book Spain, A Unique History (2008), would agree with Gaudi. Payne recounts how “by the latter part of the eighteenth century, the rejection of traditional Castilian elite culture was accompanied by the growing acceptance of critical Enlightenment norms on the one hand, accompanied on a different level by the growing plebianization of culture and attitudes, which among the common people was becoming xenophobic, emphatic and shrill”. The development of Gaudi’s architectural ideas is brilliantly described by Van Hensbergen. He was becoming more primitive and symbolic in his work while remaining profound and deeply theoretical. Gothic architecture valued proportion and clarity and was uplifting and vertical but had a structural problem solved only by going outside the main building with ‘flying buttresses’ holding up the great walls. Gaudi played with ideas like the catenary arch. He suspended a heavy chain upside down from two fixed points and traced the curve to derive the arch. Another idea was the hyperbolic parabaloid. Think of ‘Pringles’ potato chips in a tube all neatly stacked and regular, or the roof of the Calgary Saddledome. These are hyperbolic parabaloids. The skin of his later buildings utilizes brick detailing and broken glazed tile called trencadis, laid out in patterns to decorate but also to celebrate mystery and faith in symbols and signs. Time moved away from Gaudi’s self-indulgent style as the new forms of Frank Lloyd Wright in North America and Bauhaus in Europe defined a new architecture. Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, Cocteau, Satie, and Massine made a different kind of music and Dada erupted on the scene. Gaudi grew old and died in 1926, tragically, run over by a tram, unrecognized, looking like a tramp. When news of his death reached the population people wept, recognizing a great man passing. Hundreds of thousands of mourners lined the streets as his cortege passed on its way to the Sagrada Familia where he lies.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Christian Langenegger

    A fascinating biography of a complex person. Van Hensbergen puts Gaudí in the context of history, Europe, the Catholic faith and the nationalist developments in Catalonia. That said, the details often make some of the reading slow and cause you to need to re-read pages to understand how all the characters are related.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I will never, ever, really be finished with the topic of this book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Roberto

    For those who admire the great architect´s work, this is a must. As many individuals considered geniuses by history, Gaudi´s legend is full of descriptions not rooted in serious historicism. Popular culture describes Gaudi as an isolated individual, whose style and techniques where not related with his times and environment. While it´s easy to understand this position after seeing his impressive and ahead-of-his-time works, as any other great artist, his life and hence his influences were deeply For those who admire the great architect´s work, this is a must. As many individuals considered geniuses by history, Gaudi´s legend is full of descriptions not rooted in serious historicism. Popular culture describes Gaudi as an isolated individual, whose style and techniques where not related with his times and environment. While it´s easy to understand this position after seeing his impressive and ahead-of-his-time works, as any other great artist, his life and hence his influences were deeply rooted in the Catalonia culture. Antoni Gaudi grow and lived in the times of one of the Catalonia´s reemergence of strong nationality and heritage awareness known as the Renaixença (rebirth or renaissance), during the end of the XIX century and the start of the XX. The book develops this influence in a very natural manner, letting the reader to conclude that Gaudi´s very own style is a consequence of his interpretation of Catalonia´s past and present. I was personally amazed how high his esteem for Mediterranean and specially Catalan was in detriment of other European regions own artistic qualities, including Castile. The isolation myth is debunked through the description of the close relation of Gaudi with other influential members of Barcelona´s society and specially illustrating, with the members of his workshop, some of them who had enjoyed full trust from the architect. The latter sheds an special light on the own and real perception of Gaudi himself as an architect and as craftsman, something that he valued throughout his entire life and something he saw as an direct inheritance from his father, a boilmaker. However, make no mistake. No matter Gaudi´s context was important for his development as an artist, as the excellent song by The Alan Parson Project says, he was definitely ´closer to heaven, than you and me´.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Rated 2star. Granted that Gaudi was a secretive and difficult person, but van Hensbergen has spent much of his writing career on the Barcelonan. The best parts of the book were in the descriptions of actual architecture, both the buildings and the ornamentation. Additionally, the pages detailing Catalonia's reaction to Gaudi's death were very informative without dropping into sentimentality. Some of the dialogue and scenes where Gaudi interacted memorably with others were very good, layering the Rated 2star. Granted that Gaudi was a secretive and difficult person, but van Hensbergen has spent much of his writing career on the Barcelonan. The best parts of the book were in the descriptions of actual architecture, both the buildings and the ornamentation. Additionally, the pages detailing Catalonia's reaction to Gaudi's death were very informative without dropping into sentimentality. Some of the dialogue and scenes where Gaudi interacted memorably with others were very good, layering the protagonist's character for the reader. The writing about class war and the bloodbath in the streets for this era of Barcelona were particularly good -- and I came away feeling that Gaudi pretty much ignored it all, except the afternoon he was stubbornly speaking Catalan and got locked up for a few hours. van Hensbergen has three irritating authorial traits in this book. He loves to suddenly drop a handful of Catalan names into a paragraph -- because they were important, see, and they were with Gaudi. Trouble is, we don't know these people, and after awhile Wikipedia is tiring. Second, movements (e.g., modernista) are poorly defined, because evidently, the author knew the answer but wanted the reader to work harder. Gijs also liked to wax rhapsodic about the architecture by claiming, frequently, that it held both "Property A" and "Not Property A." I'm all for non-binary solutions, but what was supposed to come over as deep thinking just felt slippery and ambiguous.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    While in Spain I became very intrigued with the creative genius of Antoni Gaudi. How on earth does someone think of the kind of buildings he created? They are simply amazing. Today, the Spaniards, especially Barcelonians (is that a word?) are very proud of Gaudi. When he was alive, it was quite a different story. There was a group who thought he was a genius and hired him to build their home or a park, etc. Then there was the group who simply didn't know what to make of him. They could become do While in Spain I became very intrigued with the creative genius of Antoni Gaudi. How on earth does someone think of the kind of buildings he created? They are simply amazing. Today, the Spaniards, especially Barcelonians (is that a word?) are very proud of Gaudi. When he was alive, it was quite a different story. There was a group who thought he was a genius and hired him to build their home or a park, etc. Then there was the group who simply didn't know what to make of him. They could become downright violent about his work. I don't think I've ever read about anybody as devoted to his craft as Gaudi was. His interest in architecture showed at a very early age. And his talent was quickly evident. He never married--they don't think he even had any lovers. He was entirely devoted to his work. He even died, apparently, thinking about his latest project. He was so engrossed in thought, he stepped in front of a streetcar and was killed. This book was well done. The author was working with very little personal information. Gaudi was notoriously reclusive. I believe he's written about architecture before so I didn't understand some of the jargon--some of it was a little too technical for a layman such as myself. But I learned a lot about Gaudi. I really wanted to understand how someone could create things as unique as he did, and now I feel like I do.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Architeacher

    Antoni Gaudi is to Barcelona as Charles Rennie Mackintosh is to Glasgow: speak ill of them in their respective 'hood at your peril. In each case, their work fell somewhat out of favor following their death, but in each case, again, their reputations have risen to saint-like proportions. Gaudi has also taken several significant steps toward literal sainthood in the Roman church. Hensbergen's exemplary biography is among the most cogent, insightful writings about the architect's life. Gaudi's work Antoni Gaudi is to Barcelona as Charles Rennie Mackintosh is to Glasgow: speak ill of them in their respective 'hood at your peril. In each case, their work fell somewhat out of favor following their death, but in each case, again, their reputations have risen to saint-like proportions. Gaudi has also taken several significant steps toward literal sainthood in the Roman church. Hensbergen's exemplary biography is among the most cogent, insightful writings about the architect's life. Gaudi's work and his close working relationships with collaborators are each illuminated. It also sets Gaudi distinctly apart from practically every other architect of the Art Nouveau period--his intense religiosity. I call this book essential reading for anyone interested in Catalunya and its architectural native son.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Terrific Biography of the famed Catalan architect. This positions Gaudi firmly within the establishment of Modernisme that included a host of other successful characters (Domenech i Muntaner, Caldafach, et. al.) as well as the general architectural/professional/political establishment of Barcelona at that time, thus undermining the, I think, common misconception that Gaudi was this lone genius-guru-hermit type (this reading does hold sway during his last dozen or so years when tethered to the Sa Terrific Biography of the famed Catalan architect. This positions Gaudi firmly within the establishment of Modernisme that included a host of other successful characters (Domenech i Muntaner, Caldafach, et. al.) as well as the general architectural/professional/political establishment of Barcelona at that time, thus undermining the, I think, common misconception that Gaudi was this lone genius-guru-hermit type (this reading does hold sway during his last dozen or so years when tethered to the Sagrada project). Great read!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    Gaudi has been a favorite of mine-- and an influence-- since I was a child, when I discovered the bench in his style around Grant's Tomb on Riverside Drive... This biography opens up a world, not just of Catalonia and Gaudi's life, but of what architectural thinking can be. Many of Gaudi's sources are truly surprising-- many exotic ones, but also Olmsted's Prospect Park... I was sorry this book had to end!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Miryam

    something about this book made me put it down about eight hundred times. probably because ive always chosen to read this by a big window on sunny afternoons - meaning that i fell alseep. gaudi is an infinite mystery and maybe i just start daydreaming about possibilites instead of following the words. will save to finish on an airplane to barcelona.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Vaughan

    I love Barcelona and I am enthralled by the work of Antoni Gaudí, but this book, whilst giving a detailed account of his life, and what made him the man he was, was overly academic and steeped in a firm familiarity with Barcelona and the region of Catalonia. Not a book for the layman, but interesting in part, particularly with regard to the personal struggles and motivations of the protagonist.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tatiana

    See a pattern? I'm obsessed with biographies. My mom thought it was unhealthy when I was growing up that I would rather read biographies of MLK JR or the presidents than fiction. So did it mess me up? You decide....

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