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Antony Gaudi and Mathematics

by Liliana Usvat

Antoni Gaudí ( 25 June 1852 – 10 June 1926) was a Catalan architect of Spanish nationality born in Reus, in the Catalonia region of Spain and figurehead of Catalan Modernism. Gaudí's works reflect his highly individual and distinctive style and are largely concentrated in the Catalan capital of Barcelona, notably his magnum opus, the Sagrada Família.

Antony Gaudi as a boy started work as bellows -boy in a factory of cotton yarn and fabrics popularly known as the Vapor Nou

( The New Steam Company). The conditions inside the factory were brutal The bellows - boys worked the bellows to blow the fire under the steam boiler, every day of the week including sunday was a working day. In Spanish state to which Catalonia was subject then as now the law decraring sunday a day of rest would not be passed until 1904.

It is said that Joan Tarrats the owner of Vapor Nou, one day found the bellows -boy Antony Gaudi reading a book in a corner of the factory; but instead of telling him off, he asked him what kind of book it was. The boy rather frightened told him it was a book of arithmetic. Joan Tarras must have been surprised by the apprentice's interest and he promissed him that the next day he would bring him a bok that he would like even more. Perhaps the owner glimpsed an unusual talent in the boy. No doubt he spoke to the father to recommend that the boy should study.

The factory owner Tarrats must have helped the young Gaudi to do secondary studies. It is recorded that the mother of Antony Gaudi sold a part of the properties she ha inrerited to pay for the two sons studies.

In any case at the age of 11 Antony Gaudi was able to enter the Ecoles Pies the Pious school run by monks in Reus which provided free education being supported by private donations and a contract with the municipal council. The school taught Euclidian geometry, Newtonian mechanics, natural science .

Then he studied Master Builder and Architect in Barcelona as the profession later became known. He worked to be able to pay for the school.. At age 21 he began his career.

And Everything began with a book of artithmetic.

Here are other example of his work.

Gaudì has build in the city of Barcelona the chutch Sagrada Familia, Park Guell and other Houses still standing and his works crazy, seemingly irregular and imaginative but constructed according to science and rigor.

The architect uses two mathematical curves: the parabola and the catenary, which are actually two loci. The parabola is defined as the line which is obtained by intersecting a circular cone with a plane parallel to one of the straight lines which describe the surface of the cone. It may be noted that, if a force acts on this graph weight, this is distributed along the parabola in such a way that the efforts prove equally distributed along the line. By rotating and moving the dish along the line, the focus of the conic describes the catenary. This curve has a very important property from the standpoint of balance: subject to a load, distributes the weight evenly along the curve itself.

At the beginning of the century, Gaudí was working on numerous projects simultaneously. They reflected his shift to a more personal style inspired by nature. In 1900, he received an award for the best building of the year from the Barcelona City Council for his Casa Calvet. During the first decade of the century Gaudí dedicated himself to projects like the Casa Figueras (Figueras house, better known as Bellesguard), the Park Güell, an unsuccessful urbanisation project, and the restoration of the Cathedral of Palma de Mallorca, for which he visited Majorca several times. Between 1904 and 1910 he constructed the Casa Batlló (Batlló house) and the Casa Milà (Milá house), two of his most emblematic works.

Gaudí’s inspiration came from many sources, including nature, philosophy, art and literature, and mathematics.

His nature-inspired designs, found everywhere throughout his work, are as much functional as they are decorative. Take a look at these columns at La Sagrada Familia. Gaudí didn’t just try to make them look like tree trunks with branches – he studied how exactly the branches of a tree support the weight of its crown, then applied the same principles to his columns:

“Do you want to know where I found my model? An upright tree; it bears its branches and these, in turn, their twigs, and these, in turn, the leaves. And every individual part has been growing harmoniously, magnificently, ever since God the artist created it.”


"Chance favors the prepared mind." - Louis Pasteur