features
#072 / 2006
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Gaudí – cathedral, casa, chair designer

World-renowned for his icons of "modernista" architecture, Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1882-1926) is less famous as a designer of interiors, fittings and furniture. His Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Casa Milà, Casa Battló, Park Güell and four other UNESCO World Heritage sites are visited and appreciated by throngs of tourists each year. His unique designs for doors, metal hardware, lighting fixtures, grilles, gates and furniture are worth equal attention.

While still a student at Escola Tècnica Superior d'Arqutectura in Barcelona (1873-1877), Gaudí worked on furniture, assisting the carpenter de Eudald Punti, which helped pay for his studies. In 1878, Gaudí was commissioned by glove manufacturer Esteban Comella to design a display cabinet for the Universal Exhibition in Paris. The design received the silver prize and caught the attention of industrialist Eusebi Güell, thus beginning a life-long relationship with the architect's most important client.

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Furniture from Casa Calvet, 1898-1904

(left) stained oak meeting room "flower" chair
(right) stained oak meeting room "flower" bench

Gaudí's early furniture designs were in the popular Neogothic style of the era. He was inspired by nature and worked with three-dimensional models, clay and plaster. As he developed his own unique approach to architecture, he saw that the interiors needed fittings and furniture that would harmonize with the exteriors, and so he designed beyond architecture. Casa Calvet and Casa Battló were two of Gaudí's most important sites.

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Furniture from Casa Calvet, 1898-1904

(left) oak corner taburete (stool) from the administration office, made in the factories of Casas and Bardés (right) four gilded wood and silk upholstery "voyeuse" chairs from the formal living room

Throughout his life Gaudí suffered from rheumatism, which likely made him more aware than most of the functioning of the human form, its joints and skeleton structure. Many historians relate Gaudí's physical discomfort to the sophisticated level of ergonomic and anthropometric "fit" evident in most of his furniture designs. For example, his famous curving bench at Park Güell (top) has a well-positioned lumbar support. And, according to Joseph M. Garrat, director of the Casa-Museu Gaudí, the architect developed the living-room chair design for the Casa Battló (below) by having a workman of "average" stature lean against a soft plaster form, so as to leave an imprint of his back.

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Furniture from Casa Battló, 1904-1906

(left) oak living-room chair
(right) oak double living-room chair

After Gaudí's death in a tramcar accident in 1926, and especially during the Spanish Civil War, many of his buildings fell into disrepair, and much of the furniture was discarded. Fortunately, the Friends of Gaudí were able to save many important examples of his furniture and, in 1963, opened the Casa-Museu Gaudí in the Casa Rosada (formerly Casa Pardo) in the Park Güell, where Gaudí lived for 20 years. Here, lucky visitors to Barcelona can marvel at some of the amazing architecture and early examples of ergonomic furniture designed by the unparalleled Gaudí.

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© furniturelink 2006 (text and images)