Antonio Gaudi, 1984

Hiroshi Teshigahara’s Antonio Gaudi is a spare, astonishing, and haunting documentary on the designs of famed turn of the century Spanish architect, Antonio Gaudi (1852-1926). A profound influence on the Spanish art nouveau movement, Gaudi’s sensual adaptation of Gothic, Middle Eastern, and traditional architecture is a truly a unique artistic vision. Teshigahara immerses the viewer into Gaudi’s unorthodox vision using lingering takes and mesmerizing panning sequences, accompanied by an equally eclectic soundtrack that vacillates from lyrical symphony to disquieting near silence. The film, largely structured without verbal narrative, unfolds as a figurative mosaic of Gaudi’s early influences and nascent vision in the mid 1800’s – from an overview of the Catalonian culture, to the contemporary works of other prominent architects, to the medieval art and architecture pervasive in the region. The first building featured is the Gaudi and Cornet collaborative project, the Casa Batllo (1904-1906) in Barcelona – a bizarre fusion of organic and inorganic, primitive and modern architecture: the massive, sinewy columns that flank the main entrance; the windows sectioned off by bone-shaped structural members; the textured, reptilian-like free-formed roof; the profile of the stairs resembling an arched vertebrae. The second building, Casa Mila de Pedrera (1906-1910) was constructed to function as a residential complex: the undulating structural profile reminiscent of a beehive colony is echoed in the latticework of the main entrance, and the scalloped ceiling pattern further emulates the motion of the waves. The Casa Vicens (1883) and the House of Guell (1884-1887) further exemplify his medieval influences, from the ornate floral work (Casa Vicens) to the elaborate dragon entrance (House of Guell). Guell Park (1900-1914) was designed to provide a seamless coexistence between nature and structure – the fantastical, fairy-tale inspired playhouses; the whimsical, intricate mosaic of the fountains; the fanned columns resembling a palm tree; the amorphous open field. The unfinished Temple of Expiation of the Sagrada Family (1882-present) near the Barcelonian waterfront is a visually intoxicating monumental work with its intricate religious sculptures, soaring arches, disorienting spiral staircase, and patterned mosaic work. The project, abandoned due to Antonio Gaudi’s untimely death and the Spanish Civil War, has recently been reactivated as a testament to the legacy of this architectural visionary. Sadly, reluctantly, the film concludes with a shot of the construction site as Gaudi’s profoundly simple philosophical statement appears on the screen: “Everything comes out of the Great Book of Nature. Anything created by human beings is already in there.”

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