Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Fellow in the Humanities
2012—2013 Forum on Peripheries
Architecture; Environmental Studies
Reading Gaudi's Great Book of Nature: Reconsidering the Peripheral Reception of Proto-Environmental Architecture
At the turn of the 19th century, Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi gave physical expression to an environmental consciousness that was emerging from the peripheries of many Western societies in the midst of industrialization. Significantly, most of Gaudi's famous works stand at the physical periphery of Barcelona, affirming the moral supremacy of natural settings over the urban core. Within his intellectual context, Gaudi surpassed all standards of environmental sensitivity. He innovated structural systems by combining ruled geometry with natural anatomies. Further, his projects utilize recycled and local materials as well as prefabricated construction, methods that even contemporary green architects have not fully explored. Beyond proto-environmentalism, the reception of Antoni Gaudi's work depends entirely on peripheral conditions. Barcelona, a politically inconsequential city with burgeoning industrial wealth, sought to establish a central identity in part through cultivating a unique taste for exuberant architecture. These conditions converged in a culture that financed and celebrated Gaudi's vision. However, both Spain's peripheral location in Europe and the dominance of modernism in mainstream architecture sharply curtailed Gaudi's global impact.