Gaudì in Barcelona
  • Europe /
  • Spain /
  • Barcelona

In any corner of Barcelona, one encounters Gaudí. He is present everywhere with his art that shapes the city's streets.

Plaça Reial
(by Wolfgang Weber, CC BY 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)
Street lamps in the Plaza Real (by Canaan, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons)
Heritage place of interest.

(by Wolfgang Weber, CC BY 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Antoni Gaudi was born in Reus or nearby Riudoms, in the region of Catalonia, on June 25, 1852, to a simple and unlucky family, devastated by family bereavements while he was still young.

Antoni was also of poor health, with rheumatism constraining his existence and making him shy toward others. Gaudí began his studies at a school in Reus, where he cultivated his graphic talent by making drawings for a seminar called “El Arlequín” (The Harlequin). He was a perhaps listless but unquestionably brilliant student: as Zerbst reported, “he astounded those around him with surprising flashes of genius”. After finishing elementary school in Reus, at age 17, he moved to Barcelona to study architecture. 

At this school of Architecture, Gaudí had the opportunity to learn the basics of that discipline, but not without numerous difficulties. He, in fact, had to serve from 1874 to 1879 for military service and to embellish his educational background, he did not hesitate to intern with famous builders in Barcelona.

Although not much inclined to the strictures imposed by the Llotja school, he graduated with excellent grades as an architect in 1878, eight years after moving there. Gaudi’s creative vein already proved to be very particular in his artistic choices, to such an extent that, at the time of his proclamation, the phrase expressed by the school’s director is famous: “I don’t know if we have conferred the title on a madman or a genius, with time we will see!”

He began his artistic activity with his first official commission to create street lamps in Plaça Reial, made with six arms using stone and cast iron. In the heart of Barcelona, walking on La Rambla towards the sea, on the left, you can deviate a few meters as you enter Plaça Reial to admire Gadì’s first artistic works, the lampposts commissioned to him to illuminate the monumental fountain located in the centre.

With these works, he became known to the public and appreciated and loved by all Catalans. The style of the street lamps was very successful. Made of stone and cast iron, they are structured with six arms to hold gas lanterns. The lampposts are decorated with ivy leaves, small red floral symbols, colours, a combination of materials, a shield symbolic of Barcelona, and crowned at the end with helmets alluding to Mercury, god of commerce in Greco-Roman mythology, emphasising the square’s role as a city place aimed at meeting and space intended for numerous commercial activities.


Almost as a counterpoise to the monastic asceticism of his boyhood, Gaudí during this period loved to perform on the Barcelona stage and pose in dandy ways: handsome (he had blue eyes and flowing blond hair), elegant in manner and attire, Gaudí during these periods interacted fervently with the Barcelona social scene, deriving from it, among other things, a definite political and ideological orientation.


1. Plaça Reial

2. Guell Palace

3. Casa Battlò

4. Casa Mila – La Pedrera

5. Parco Guell

6. The Sagrada Familia