Be the Artist: The Colorful Architecture of Antoni Gaudí

Reading Time: 4 minutes
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Upcycle old comics, origami, and other colorful paper to make some Gaudí-style mosaic art. Image: Lisa Tate

The Artist: Architect Antoni Gaudí

Antoni Gaudí is sometimes known for something he wasn’t able to complete, but he is also remembered for his vibrant and beautiful works in what is known as the Catalan modernism style of architecture.

Gaudí was born in Catalonia, Spain in 1852, the son of a coppersmith. He spent much of his childhood outdoors and developed an appreciation for nature and his Mediterranean heritage, both of which influenced his work and style.

He studied at Barcelona Higher School of Architecture. His first projects ranged from lampposts to newsstands. He soon gained recognition for his first commissioned home, Casa Vicens in Barcelona. This led to more commissions, a showcase at the 1878 World’s Fair in Paris, and several other projects using his “modernista” design.

Catalan modernism, for which Gaudí is the best-known architect, is often compared to other modern styles like art nouveau. His work incorporated crafts such as ceramic and mosaic, ironwork, and stained glass.

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Antoni Guadí’s colorful mosaic-covered buildings and other sites are some of the most visited sites in Barcelona, Spain. This includes his unfinished masterpiece, Sagrada Familia (model of finished church at bottom right). Images: Public Domain (Sagrada Familia image by Bernard Gadnon; Sagrada model image by Maxim Karpinskiy).

His masterpiece project is the church Basilica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia, which remains a work in progress to this day. He was put in charge of the project in 1883, and from 1915 to his death, he was completely devoted to this project alone. He would never see it completed. In 1926, while crossing the street, he was hit and killed by a tram. He was 73, and his tomb is located in the church.

Despite the church still being incomplete, Sagrada Familia is the most visited monument in Spain and is one of his seven works declared a UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Casa Vicens and his early lampposts, also found in Barcelona. Other Barcelona sites include his house, Park Güell, which now serves as the Gaudí House Museum.

Gaudí loved curves, which reflected his love for nature and devotion to his faith. He is called by admirers of his work “God’s Architect.” He believed man comes from nature, and all art made by man is, in turn, an extension of a creation of nature. He is famously quoted as saying, “straight lines come from man,” but “curved lines from God.”

“Nothing is art if it does not come from nature,” he said.

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Image: Lisa Tate

The Project: Comic Book Mosiacs

 Gaudí’s mosaic buildings and art are part of what makes Barcelona, Spain such a unique city, and he never held back on using color.

In many cases, he used pieces with patterns and designs, as well as various shapes. He also used upcycled materials, such as pieces from discarded ceramics.

For this project, we’re going to make Gaudí-style mosaics using upcycled resources, including one that is both plentiful and colorful: old comic books.

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Discarded paper, boxes, and jars can easily be found around the house.

Before we begin, let me speak directly to the younger crafters: don’t cut into any book you or anyone else wants to keep. Ask first before using any old comics or magazines. There are plenty of free preview issues or garage sale finds you can use.

In addition to comics, you can use magazines, construction paper, patterned origami paper, used coloring books, or any other bright paper to add to these patterns.

First, find an object to cover. You can start simply with a small cardboard box, plastic cup, or jar.

Set it aside and get your “tiles” ready by clipping the paper into small, irregular shapes. You can also make round pieces using a hole punch.

Sort the pieces by their predominant color into separate piles. Paper plates or small paper cups work well for this.

Once the colors are in order, use an old paintbrush and cover a small section of the object you picked to cover with a mix of water and school or decoupage glue. Little by little, cover the surface with pieces in the pattern you want. Do this a little at a time, so the glue doesn’t dry out on the surface.

Get the paper pieces close together but don’t overlap. Once finished, cover the entire surface lightly with a layer of the glue, and let it dry completely.

If you want to add a more three-dimensional effect, small shells like scallop or little clam shells, adhesive beads or pearls (often found wit scrapbooking materials), or buttons can be added using stronger glue.

To finish it off, fill in the cracks between the tiles with some craft paint that comes with small tips (such as puff paint). White, grey, or brown will give a look of plaster or concrete, but you can use any color you like.

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Cut your “tiles” and decoupage them on your item. Fill in the spaces with a puff paint to make it look like stone or plaster. Use a strong craft glue or a glue gun to add shells or beads.

You can vary this in several ways:

  • Cover old toys (dolls, balls, action figures, toy animals, etc.) for some funky shelf art.
  • Cover a glass container with a large rim, and add a small votive or flameless candle.
  • Cover smooth river rocks for paperweights.
  • Think of a holiday. Cover plain glass or plastic ornaments for tree trimming, plaster or plastic skulls, plastic eggs, or even a paper heart.

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Be as creative with the shapes and color as you want. Gaudí felt color could make places feel more alive, according to one quote often attributed to him:

“Color in certain places has the great value of making the outlines and structural planes seem more energetic.”