bending and twisting under desire’s distorting pleasures

Antoni Gaudi was the great outsider of modern architecture. He was likely the inspired freak some detractors claimed, but he was also the father of an organic emotional style and ultimately a supreme artist…..In spite of these efforts at rehabilitation, Modern Style was not assimilated right away. As far as the conservative sectors were concerned, they still saw it as an extravagance of dubious taste. On the other side, the idea remained strong in progressive circles that it was a reactionary style, as it was bourgeois and anti-industrial. As for Gaudí, his individualistic character, plastic exuberance and mystic symbolism were not traits that facilitated his being accepted as a reference point by contemporary designers.

by Josep Maria Alegre. Casa Vicens was a townhouse designed in 1878, when Gaudi was twenty-six and had just been awarded the official title of architect. read more:

Salvador Dali wrote an essay in 1933, “on the terrifying and comestible beauty of the modern’style architecture”, referring to Gaudi’s “Casa Batlló” and “Casa Milà” in Barcelona. The essay was published in “Le Minotaure” and illustrated with photographs by Man Ray and Brassai, which are on display with an amusing photo of Dali posing at one of Hector Guimard’s metro entrances for the gossip magazine Paris Match. The title reads “Salvador Dali emerging from the basement of the subconscious with a romantic anteater on a lead”. ( Rossiter) Read More: a

"In Catalonia, Noucentisme was extremely reproachful of Gaudían disorder. Following Eugeni d'Ors' belligerent criticism, a general indifference set in that lasted almost up until the 1950s. Nevertheless, Francesc Pujols, a rara avis, came out in his favour and, in defiance of d'Ors, demanded Gaudí's "great monstrous, Baroque and excessive style" for the city. The other attempt at rehabilitation came from the surrealists. In fact it was Dalí, in a famous article published in 1933 in the magazine Minotaure, who spoke of "the terrifying and edible beauty" of the Modern Style. Gaudí's work, vindicated using precisely the same analogies as his detractors -our amorous imagination leads us to "eat" the object of our desire- was employed at the same time to attack Le Corbusier, "a masochistic Protestant architect who is, as everyone knows, the inventor of self-punishing architecture" (Salvador Dalí, Els cornuts del vell art modern -The Cuckolds of the Old Modern Art- 1959). The Surrealists' Gaudí is the Gaudí of genius, the visionary, the child, the primitive, the producer of a convulsive beauty, as demanded by Breton, with its world of imaginary objects to be enjoyed and swallowed." read more:

…The climax for Gaudi may have been reached at the Park Guell, where the gatehouse roofs, and terrace benches look like a cross between a Jackson Pollock and Disney cartoon and the ceiling of the many columned portico is a kind of proto-surrealist and proto-Dadaist collage that incorporates a doll’s head and pieces of broken plates, cups, bottles, glass and miscellaneous china.

Another source of inspiration was local, natural building material. Gaudi had more than one reason for preferring it to reinforced concrete, which from an engineering point of view was exactly the strong, plastic stuff his curved forms required and seemed to anticipate , and which was available during the second half of his career. Traditional local material suited his neo-medieval leanings , his nature worship , his handwork cult, and the labor skills most easily attainable in Catalonia. But obviously one of the main reasons for liking it was the chance it gave him to compose with some of the freedom enjoyed by non-architectural artists, for he often joined his workers and even invented structural parts of his building on the spot.

"Eusebi Güell asked Gaudí to create an entrance gate, a gatehouse, and stables. The first is probably one of the most stunning pieces of wrought-iron work in the world. Locally known as the Drac de Pedralbes (the Dragon of Pedralbes), a huge reptile literally jumps out at you, his tongue extended and ready to attack. The dwellings are no less powerful. Like the Casa Vicens, they were designed early in Gaudí's career when he was influenced by Islamic architecture and feature turrets and white walls contrasted with brightly colored tiles. The pavilion on the right houses a library and Gaudían research center. Gaudí took inspiration for the finca from the Greek myth of Hesperides. The ominous dragon is a metaphor for the beast that Hercules battled, and although they are a tad run-down, the gardens behind the gate used to be lush and full of citrus trees -- the legendary gardens of Hesperides themselves. Read more: image:

His most characteristic walls are combinations of action architecture, abstract painting , and aleatory sculpture, animated by gestures in earth-colored brick, terra-cotta, rough-cut stone, and a noble rubble that recalls Roman and Carolingian ruins. When he found blocks of stone uninteresting, he had them hammered and pitted by workmen until they reflected or absorbed sunlight in the way he wished.

Whereas the Futurists conceived of solid matter as just the illusion of permanence in a world of light, energy, and motion, Dali’s dematerializations are tied more tightly to the psyche. He perceives the landscape and objects around him bending and twisting under desire’s distorting pressures. Rock-hard pilasters and buttresses are simply momentary consolidations of matter in space and time. Desire moves in pulsating cycles and ebbs and flows. Like the “pointillist iridescences” on Gaudi’s rubbery buildings, time moves “in an asymmetrical and dynamic- instantaneous succession of reliefs, broken, syncopated, entwined.” Time and matter contort under the same force and with the same vicissitudes. They swell to afford the full measure of a satisfaction (nearly) experienced. They throb and detumesce along with the erratic appetite of the drives. Consumption unites. It is common, repetitive, destructive, and regenerative. Time bends like a soft watch. Monuments go limp.Read More: a

Gaudi. the roofscape of the Casa Mila, a barcelona apartment house crowned by sinister squadrons of helmeted warriors. image:

Certainly, Gaudí broke clean away from the classical disciplines of architecture and created a personal style that gave a novel interpretation to the concept of the Baroque. The results could have been chaotic, were it not for the strength of his imposed ideas which gave unity to each of his compositions. The common elements in Gaudi´s Baroque manner are the attentin to human circumstances and the constructional basis of many of his most original details and effects, which he infused with a considerable humour. If his wit is something which helps us to enjoy his buildings, it must also have sustained Gaudí himself, and his creativity, during the laborious process of work on each project and construction of each building. The enigma of Gaudí is that, although he was an outstanding talent, he failed to consolidate a viable architectural discipline that could be continued and elaborated by his followers. His abundant imagination, private wit and public self-confidence finally became mortgaged to a consuming and reactionary religiosity that grew up around him through his work on the “Sagrada Familia” temple. He misread his brief, and it destroyed him. His architecture became subjected to a religion of symbols. After 1914, with the Catalan cultural elite rejecting the “chaos” of “Modernisme” in favour of the classic order of Mediterranean culture, disoriented by the death of his patron Güell and of his chief assistant Berenguer, Gaudí withdrew more and more into his private obsessions. It is from this later phase, as we have remarked previously, that the myth of Gaudí derives. The foregoing pages have been concerned with demonstrating the relevance and centrality of his work within the whole dynamism of Catalan “Modernisme”. Seen in this light, the achievements and the contradictions of the architect manifest their true significance. Read More:

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