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Antoni Gaudí and his influence to modern architecture

Antoni Gaudí i Cornet, known as the "most ingenious of all architects", was born in 1852 in Spain and died in 1926.  Gaudí was a member of the Centre Excursionista, a club that organised pilgrims to the historical sites of the once glorious past of Catalonia, and his works were most celebrated by the Renaixença, the quest for a Catalan unique identity and national independence.

However, Gaudí's international fame as a visionary was established for another reason.  According to Curtis (1982 p. 29), Gaudí is one of the most curious and original architects of the past two hundred years.  The most influential elements of Gaudí's work are the incorporation of the natural environment to the urban habitat, and the pioneering approach to the building as a vital part of the city and as a plastic site of interaction between the rational and the romantic.  In the renowned works of Casa Milá, Park Güell, and Sagrada Família, Gaudí has creatively interwoven the private with the public, explored his vision of the modern city, and confessed the anxiety of modern life.

Even so, Gaudí's works tend towards eclecticism and exclusion, since their elaborated designs spurn standardised mass production and are made to be enjoyed by the privileged few.  For instance, Park Güell may counterbalance the increasing industrialisation of the cities (Zerbst, 1997 p. 140-1); however, this seems a highly individualistic measure, suggesting a private bubble of elitist security and isolation rather than aspiring to the transformation of society as a whole.

All the same, Gaudí has changed our understanding of architecture because he has skilfully managed to give language and shape to utter spatial fantasy, while at the same time paying attention to the deeper structures and transformative forces.  The harmony and variety of curves and overlapping surfaces found in Gaudí's work attain a fluidity of neutral forms, and sublimate architectural experience to the realm of the surreal.  The endless interplay between the building and its surroundings and the elaborated façades that project into the interior of living spaces transform what we experience and inhabit into a tangible vision of a peaceful co-existence between nature and the city.

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