This magnificent volume is a fitting monument to the Catalan architect, Antonio Gaudí. It is the only book on Gaudí that is fully commensurate with the dimensions of his greatness, and in its completeness and detail it simply supplants all previous accounts. All of Gaudí's projects are illustrated in 5555 photographs of buildings, sculptures, furnishings, and plans, including 60 full-color plates—a significant feature, since color was an integral part of Gaudí's architectural realizations. Many of these illustrations depict objects unearthed by the author in recent years and are made available here for the first time.
The late César Martinell was both a practicing architect and an art historian who, as a young man, spent considerable time with Gaudí in his studio. Since Gaudí himself left few writings, Martinell's recollections and notes concerning those meetings provide valuable insights into his mentor's work and, especially, his esthetic theories. Martinell has also provided new and more precise answers to outstanding questions regarding the dating and attribution of a number of works.
The first part of the book is a full-length biography. The second explores the theoretical considerations that motivated Gaudí's unique architectural solutions. Part Three inventories and analyzes Gaudí's individual projects chronologically.
George R. Collins, Professor of Art History at Columbia University and editor of this English-language edition of the book, writes that “Lengthy, discerning discussion, like Martinell's, of each major work is essential in cases such as Gaudí's where each design is unique and significantly different from its predecessors. The chronological organization... makes it possible for the author to keep his readers aware at all times of the extraordinary devotion of this single human being to one overriding and lifelong project: the designing and building of the Sagrada Familia, to be one of the world's largest churches. Gaudí's somewhat irascible and totally unmaterialistic dedication to this cause can be sensed in nearly every other project in which he was involved, and the author makes this clear.“Martinell insists on our recognition of Gaudí as primarily an architect, and he is clearly impatient with those who would see him as some sort of modern painter, abstract artist, or surrealist. An absorbing feature of this book is the way in which the author shows how the many innovative features of Gaudí's designs were a natural result of the pains he took with the details of the building programs with which he was faced. Aspects which at first sight might strike us as bizarre or pure fantasy emerge, after explanation, as perfectly rational, sensible, even inevitable results of the tireless scrutiny and research that Gaudí gave to every project.... Especially fascinating are Martinell's descriptions [of the ways in which Gaudi] infused all his works with underlying geometrical harmonies and proportions—usually of a dynamic rhythmical character.
“The present book will do much to correct the image of Gaudí as an eccentric and isolated visionary diverting architecture into private sculptural, folkloric channels. We are beginning to realize that his long career was dedicated to a dogged exploration of the nature of the art of building and of the very purpose of architecture. Martinell's mass of data and reminiscences is an absolutely necessary basis to our understanding of the questions that Gaudí posed.”