Last Updated 27 May 2020

Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia

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Do men and women view artistic pieces differently? When we consider numerous articles surrounding Antoni Gaudi’s architectural wonder Sagrada Familia, is there a difference between the way men and women view this piece of history. In the articles we are to analyze, we find that women are more subjectively critical than men who are somewhat more objective in the perceptions. In a architectural piece, the standpoints are unavoidable because they are readily visible to the public regardless of whether or not you want to see it.

Gaudi’s ostentatious Gothic facade has acquired admiration and criticism over the years and we discuss this criticism of his work with reference to various articles seen from the viewpoint of both genders in order to ascertain whether there is indeed a difference between the genders’ perceptions. “Heresy or Homage in Barcelona” was written by Margot Hornblower in TIME magazine and is dated 28 January 1991. Hornblower describes the Sagrada Familia as “sensual, spiritual, whimsical, exuberant” (Hornblower, 1991).

In this description, she obviously spares no time in making the piece seem irresistible. Furthermore, she insists that the building ‘symbolizes’ the city of Barcelona in a way that few other buildings do (Hornblower, 1991). Hornblower is complimentary of the piece of architecture that at times has been seen as gauche and over-the-top, she explains that very style of the building is almost a mockery of modern architecture (Hornblower, 1991). Although this in itself is not complimentary of the presence it holds in Catalina, but the way Hornblower has written it, makes it seem awesome in its own way.

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She does, however make it known that the fact that the Sagrada Familia was never completed poses a problem for many critics. The problem it appears, according to Hornblower is: who will be seen as fit to complete the work considering the immense esteem in which Gaudi was held? (Hornblower, 1991). The article was written prior to the 1992 Olympic Games and dissention was caused surrounding the people chosen to complete the piece. Hornblower writes about the difference between art nouveau and the man Suribachs who was chosen to complete the building (Hornblower, 1991).

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This is comparable to another female writer who in fact wrote about the completion of the Sagrada Familia and is written by a Spanish female writer by the name of Rosario Fontova who writes for the El Periodico de Catalunya and is dated 22 October 2000. She writes factually about the re-evaluation of Gaudi’s work and the subsequent reopening of the Sagrada Familia as a completed work. She is completely unbiased and writes objectively although at times slightly on the complimentary side: “Part of the scaffolding has been removed, revealing the "Gaudian" shape of the temple's central nave as seen from the floor. (Fontova, 2000). From the other hand, male American writer for the New York Times also describes the Sagrada Familia in a complimentary fashion. Edward Schumacher writes for the New York Times Special on 1 January 1991 “Gaudi’s Church Still Divides Barcelona”. Similar to Hornblower’s article, Schumacher also explores the conflict that surrounds the famous building. Schumacher, while complimentary, he does draw attention to the aspect of incongruity that the building holds, that is, its ‘exaggerated’ appearance (Schumacher, 1991).

In this case Schumacher uses the word ‘exaggerated’ with the word ‘glorious’ in the phrase “The Sagrada Familia (Holy Family), a soaring, gloriously exaggerated Art Nouveau church that is taller than St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, was only a quarter done when Gaudi was killed by a streetcar in 1926. ”(Schumacher, 1991). Schumacher therefore obviously looks fondly upon the architectural piece. Schumacher writes in the sense that the Familia Sagrada is a challenge to the old norms expected in fine art architecture.

He believes, or writes at least that Gaudi challenged the ‘tired revival styles’ and formed his own ‘eclectic’ approach to building (Schumacher, 1991). He calls Gaudi a ‘visionary’ and goes into quite a lot of depth surrounding architectural terminology. He speaks about angularity, architraves, columns and vaults, meaning that to some extent he is learned in the field of architecture (Schumacher, 1991). Schumacher also goes into detail about the history of the Sagrada Familia, stating that Gaudi had seen the work as a culmination of his life’s work (Shumacher).

He also explains the controversy surrounding the commission and building of the Sagrada Familia especially in terms of its artistic revival (Schumacher, 1991). Hattie Hartmann is a female writer for the New York Times and wrote “Barcelona Celebrates its own Architectural Visionary” dated 19 August 2002. She writes, in contrast to our first female writer in a very factual manner. She does not write much about how she feels about the piece but relates the facts and history surrounding the building. She acts as a sounding-board for what others think. The proposed route of the Madrid-Barcelona high-speed train passes near the Sagrada Familia site, and some say that offers an ideal opportunity to take another look at the current plans for the cathedral in its urban context before it is too late. ”(Hartmann, 2002). This example shows the willingness of Hartmann to allow other opinions is strongly objective. Her choice of subject, however, also reveals the need to question what others believe and also in a way to stand up against the changes that might detract from the beauty and stature of the building.

She writes about Gaudi’s popularity, his following and his status but refrains form using her own opinion of him and uses no emotive words regarding to herself in this situation (Hartmann, 2002). The differences between male and female discourse in terms of Gaudi’s work do not display any particular traits with regards to the way in which it is viewed form on gender to the other. One female writer (Hornblower) writes subjectively with many emotive words used to fondly describe the Sagrada Familia while the male writer, Schumacher does the same.

The writer from Spain who obviously is familiar with the work is more factual and intent on creating a news-flash rather than advertising the piece. Fontova does not speak badly of the piece but refrains from making a value judgment on the building. On the one hand we have an American woman gushing Gaudi’s praise and on the other hand we see a local Catalan woman writing about the building as if it were part of her daily life. Schumacher does use far more technical terms in his description of the building while Hartmann and Hornblower both write with little weight placed on the technical value of the architecture.

Fontova probably has more access to information surrounding the building works and is therefore more attentive to the technicalities. In the case of Sagrada Familia we see that the only real difference in perception of the piece is that the male writer appears to see the technical value of the building. The Sagrada Familia itself is a profoundly ostentatious and decorative building with an almost Gothic facade. His work pushed many boundaries in terms of breaking with norms and created a thoroughly art nouveau impression of the original religious relic that is the form of a cathedral.

Comparable to Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel we see a modernised version of an old religious ideal. The Sagrada Familia has different meaning for different people and this is essentially the crux of the matter. For the Catalan female writer, Sagrada Familia is a part of her daily life, something she sees almost daily. It is also part of the Barcelonian heritage which the American writers, both male and female do not see. It is recognised by them but not necessarily seen in the same light. The male alternative to the praise given Gaudi’d works, is seen more from a technical point of view but is still strongly emotive.

The female American writer was obviously in praise of Gaudi’s work more in terms of its aesthetic value than for its technical parts. There is therefore a difference between the way a local sees the building and a foreigner. There is also a difference in the purposes of the writing: Hartmann was more documentary about the piece and did not place as much importance on her own opinion as she did on the facts. The meaning behind the writing was predominantly in terms of the controversy the alterations to the building has caused. There was very little difference between the way males and females viewed the artwork in this particular case.

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