Interior Design Inspiration: Antonio Gaudi

On our recent trip to Barcelona, we were fortunate to experience first hand, the genius of Antonio Gaudi's work. His works reach far beyond standard architectural excellence. Several of his sites and elements are included in UNESCO World Heritage Site listing for "Works of Outstanding Value".

Biography

Spanish Architect and Designer, Antonio Gaudi is the most internationally prestigious figure in modern architecture. However, it is his important contribution to interior design that is celebrated here.

To appreciate the skill and complexities of his work you need to understand what motivated the man. Gaudi's work was influenced by his passions in life: architecture,nature and religion.

Interior Style

Gaudi's interior design goes beyond any one style classification. In his early years Gaudi was most influenced by Gothic Revival. Architectual elements such as pointed arches, steep sloping roofs and decorative tracery (ornamental openwork patterns) are applied in Gothic Revival interior design.

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There are also influences of Art Nouveau in Gaudi's work. This style has ornamental characteristics taking the form of sinuous natural objects. The line is elegant and graceful infused with a powerfully rhythmic and whip like force. A great example is the facade of Gaudi's Casa Batllo.

Design Techniques

Sustainability must have always been at the forefront of his mind. Gaudi was adept at introducing new techniques in the treatment of materials, such as the use of recycled glass and ceramics and waste iron. A great example is the detail in this terrace balustrade.

Gaudi rarely drew detailed plans of his work instead preferring to create three dimensional scale models, moulding the details as he conceived them. He was also known for using the catenary arch. His models of hanging chains from points were used to form a catenary. This chain model was used to create this vaulted ceiling in Casa Mila, Barcelona.

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Another aspect is the intelligent distribution of space, always with the aim of creating a comfortable, intimate, interior atmosphere. Gaudí would divide the space into sections, adapted to their specific use, by means of low walls, dropped ceilings, sliding doors and wall closets. Apart from taking care of every detail of all structural and ornamental elements, he made sure his constructions had good lighting and ventilation.

The roof terrace of Casa Batllo features the dragon back design. This effect is created by using tiles of different colours on one side. The roof is furnished with four chimney stacks that are designed to prevent backdraughts.

Structural Design

What was completely original about Gaudi's work was the idea of basing all the structural design in considerations of equilibrium. Gaudí employed unusual geometrical forms for some of his vaults and ruled surfaces, showing a deep structural insight. For example, in the Sagrada Familia he designed tree-forms of equilibrium for the supports of the vaults.

Symbolism of Natural Light

Gaudi used lighting for the organisation of internal spaces. He used the gradient of light intensity. Different elements such as skylights, windows, shutters, and blinds were incorporated with careful thought and skill to achieve this. A good example is the graduation of colour used in the central atrium of the Casa Batllo to achieve distribution of light throughout the interior. He also orientated buildings so they were north-south facing to maximise sunlight penetration.

Gaudi knew how to manipulate the designs of his buildings to provide great luminosity through his use of materials, volumes and colours.

Gaudi's interiors encourage people to use their imagination. You enter a dreamworld. The use of glass and materials shaped like jeweled sea creatures makes you feel as though you are in an aquarium when you visit Casa Batllo.

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Magic Use of Colour

Gaudi was master of capturing light intensity as a design element in his work. A stunning example is the use of stained glass in the Sagrada Familia with its careful orientation to create rich and comprehensive ornamentation for the cathedral's interior.

Organic Shapes Inspired by Nature

Gaudi discovered how to adapt the language of nature into the structural forms of his architecture. Hallways in the service loft of Casa Batllo are shaped like a ribcage for the dragon's spine.......

Stair railings shaped like snails, leaves and stems..........

Furniture

When designing furniture, such as doors and railings, Gaudi always thought about the person who was to use it. Much of his furniture was designed in the naturalistic style under the influence of Modernism. Its sinuous form and plant like lines gives the impression that the piece has been made out of wholly malleable and soft material.

If you ever travel to Spain, Barcelona is a place you must visit. Gaudi's influence on the city's urban character is nothing short of spectacular!

All un-credited photos are by the author... and her clever man !


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