39 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Completely unworthy of its subject
, February 18, 2002
This review is from: Gaudi: A Biography (Hardcover)
Outside of Catalonia and Spain, Antoni Gaudi i Cornet is mythologised as a sort of mad genius . The man, like his work is appreciated, but completely misunderstood. Gils van Hensbergen's intention is to present Gaudi to us in the Catalan nationalist context which formed him and his buildings. Yes, an understanding of Catalanism with its piety, spiritualism, chauvinist patriotism and family values is helpful to understanding Gaudi's life, but not essential to appreciating his work. Antoni Gaudi was a genius. Works of genius communicate themselves. That is all you really need to know admire and love Gaudi's designs.
As pure as Hensbergen's intentions are, the book is a failure. Poorly written, haphazardly organized and indifferently edited, Gaudi is painful to read and does very little to improve ones understanding of the subject. To learn about the Barcelona of those days, its politics and players and how they influenced the architect, read Robert Hughes' Barcelona: a magnificent book by a master non-fiction stylist.
Gaudi: A Biography is also inadequate in the descriptions of the projects and the buildings. Hensbegen never clarifies what happened at Poblet; how Gaudi worked and what his studio was like; that the model for Colonia Guell was for an entire church, not just a crypt; and most importantly how did Gaudi view space? Hensbergen never discusses Gaudi's mature interiors. He treats the designer solely as a sculptor--a former of symbols--not as a creator of spaces.
I was confused as often by the imperfectly written sentences as by the badly explained ideas. The chronology is a muddle. Dates are even mistyped. Names pile up without clear explanation of who they are or why they are being mentioned. And the endnotes...! They are confounding digressions which clarify nothing.Without beauty, rationality and solid construction, this book is wholely unworthy of its subject.
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