Geometrical Forms in Gaudi’s work

Taken from

Antoni Gaudi was as Spanish Catalan architect.

Geometrical forms

The nave in the Sagrada Familia with a hyperboloid vault. Inspiration from nature is taken from a tree, as the pillar and branches symbolise trees rising up to the roof.

This study of nature translated into his use of ruled geometrical forms such as the hyperbolic paraboloid, the hyperboloid, the helicoid and the cone, which reflect the forms Gaudí found in nature.[59] Ruled surfaces are forms generated by a straight line known as the generatrix, as it moves over one or several lines known as directrices. Gaudí found abundant examples of them in nature, for instance in rushes, reeds and bones; he used to say that there is no better structure than the trunk of a tree or a human skeleton. These forms are at the same time functional and aesthetic, and Gaudí discovered how to adapt the language of nature to the structural forms of architecture. He used to equate the helicoid form to movement and the hyperboloid to light. Concerning ruled surfaces, he said:

Paraboloids, hyperboloids and helicoids, constantly varying the incidence of the light, are rich in matrices themselves, which make ornamentation and even modelling unnecessary.[60]

Another element widely used by Gaudí was the catenary arch. He had studied geometry thoroughly when he was young, studying numerous articles about engineering, a field that praised the virtues of the catenary curve as a mechanical element, one which at that time, however, was used only in the construction of suspension bridges. Gaudí was the first to use this element in common architecture. Catenary arches in works like the Casa Milà, the Teresian College, the crypt of the Colònia Güell and the Sagrada Família allowed Gaudí to add an element of great strength to his structures, given that the catenary distributes the weight it regularly carries evenly, being affected only by self-canceling tangential forces.[61]

Gaudí evolved from plane to spatial geometry, to ruled geometry. These constructional forms are highly suited to the use of cheap materials such as brick. Gaudí frequently used brick laid with mortar in successive layers, as in the traditional Catalan vault, using the brick laid flat instead of on its side.[62] This quest for new structural solutions culminated between 1910 and 1920, when he exploited his research and experience in his masterpiece, the Sagrada Família. Gaudí conceived the interior of the church as if it were a forest, with a set of tree-like columns divided into various branches to support a structure of intertwined hyperboloid vaults. He inclined the columns so they could better resist the perpendicular pressure on their section. He also gave them a double-turn helicoidal shape (right turn and left turn), as in the branches and trunks of trees. This created a structure that is now known as fractal.[63] Together with a modulation of the space that divides it into small, independent and self-supporting modules, it creates a structure that perfectly supports the mechanical traction forces without need for buttresses, as required by the neo-Gothic style.[64] Gaudí thus achieved a rational, structured and perfectly logical solution, creating at the same time a new architectural style that was original, simple, practical and aesthetic.


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