cover image GAUDI: A Biography

GAUDI: A Biography

Gijs van Hensbergen, . . HarperCollins, $35 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-06-621065-0

Gaudi (1852–1926) is the Catalan architect most renowned for his Sagrada Familia cathedral and Park Guell in Barcelona; both feature dripping organic forms that fascinate some viewers and repel others. Van Hensbergen (A Taste of Castille), a U.K.–based lecturer on architecture, was able to do his research in Catalan, an inestimable advantage for any writer on Gaudi. In 16 lucid chapters, Gaudi's life and work are examined, from his ardent Catholicism and patriotism to his celibacy, which resulted from a disappointment in love. The chapter titles reflect the architect's own high-flown ambitions, but the writing doesn't contain the flatulent prose sometimes produced by fans of builders and buildings. Gaudi's often combative dealings with civic authorities are recounted clearly, up to his death in a street accident involving a tram, and are reconstructed as thoroughly as possible, yet not elaborated on or fabricated, as many another biographer might have tried to do. The author's virtues of balance and good taste are evident everywhere in this book, making it a powerfully creditable testament to the permanent value of Gaudi's contributions. Work on Gaudi is scarce in English, so this is truly a landmark effort. The book will fascinate anyone interested in modern architecture and urbanism, Spanish art or the relationships between art, religion and social improvement. Color and b&w illus. not seen by PW. (Nov.)