Although his controversial Art Nouveau style was routinely criticized during his lifetime, Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926) is now considered Spain's greatest architect. Much of his work can be found in his native Catalonian city of Barcelona.
Fresh out of school, Gaudí was approached by Count Eusebi Güell, a wealthy industrialist whose patronage and friendship helped a young Gaudí grow his talents. As such, much of Gaudí’s work includes his namesake.
Visit Park Güell, a skillfully designed architectural park overlooking Barcelona, or Palau Güell, a palatial town mansion designed specifically for Güell to entertain members of high society.
Gaudí became known for his opulent style, building other aristocratic homes such as Caso Battló. Known locally as “House of Bones”, this building is unique due to its skeletal qualities: a broken mosaic façade with an arched roof that is akin to a dragon’s spine.
But by far the most popular of Gaudí’s work was built not for wealthy businessmen or bourgeois patriarchs. Rather, it was for the Roman Catholic archdiocese: La Sagrada Familia.
Designed to have 18 towers, this massive church broke ground in 1883 and continued to employ Gaudí for the next forty years of his life, earning him the nickname, “God’s Architect”.
The structure itself is incredibly comprehensive, combining intricately designed arches, three different grand facades and experimental hourglass pillars, giving this church one of the most unique and highly advanced designs ever conceived.
So ambitious was Gaudí’s vision that he never lived to see its realization, dying tragically in 1926. And although it is open to the public, work continues on the church to this very day. Luckily for Gaudí, his interment in the church’s crypt assures he will “witness” his masterwork’s final completion — in 2026.