Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain // Getty Images
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain // Getty Images

Gaudí’s Accidental Death: Why The Great Architect Was Mistaken For A Beggar

Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain // Getty Images
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain // Getty Images

Born in Spain in 1852, architect Antoni Gaudí became famous for working at the forefront of Catalan Modernism, an artistic and literary movement that sought to establish Catalonia as distinctly modern and urban. Throughout his career, his bright, audacious designs stood out from the long-standard building practices. For Barcelona’s Park Güell, he used natural, organic shapes paired with colorful mosaic tiles. The family homes he designed, such as the Casa Calvet and Casa Milà, were just as bold. His Casa Batlló, for example, features elongated windows, a scale-like roof, curved entryways, and undulating ceilings, giving the home a surreal, psychedelic effect.

Gaudí was well-known and respected, and he made good money designing homes and public spaces. In 1883, Gaudí began designing Sagrada Família, the enormous Roman Catholic basilica in Barcelona most associated with his name.

The Sagrada Família circa 1940. // Getty

Nicknamed “God’s architect,” Gaudí stated that he designed and built all his work for the glory of God. He didn’t marry or have children, instead focusing steadfastly on his work and his Catholicism. As he got older, Gaudí became more religious, attending Mass and praying each day. He engaged in extreme fasting, shunned meat and alcohol, and reportedly ate only lettuce dipped in milk for a typical lunch. After several of his close friends, relatives, collaborators, and patrons died in the early 1910s, he threw himself further into his work. He moved into his workshop inside the Sagrada Família, gave up all other work in 1914, and turned down interviews. His hygiene habits also went sharply downhill; he wore shabby, ragged clothing, and stopped shaving.

On June 7, 1926, during his daily walk to confession, Gaudí was hit by a tram along the Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes. Because of the 73-year-old's unkempt appearance (and the fact that he didn’t have identification in his pocket), people who witnessed the accident thought he was a beggar. Gaudí lost consciousness, but taxi drivers wouldn’t bother taking a beggar to the hospital. A doctor who lived along the Gran Via, Dr. Ferrer Solervicens, was alerted to the accident and went to examine the old man, but he concluded that nothing could be done. A police officer eventually took the gaunt, injured Gaudí to the Hospital de la Santa Creu, where he got only the rudimentary care that a pauper would receive.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

It wasn't until the next day that the chaplain at the Sagrada Família recognized the beggar as the famed architect, but it was too late—Gaudí died two days later, on June 10, 1926. The residents of Barcelona mourned Gaudí’s death, lauding his divinely inspired work; his funeral procession snaked through the city, ending at his immense, unfinished church. He was laid to rest in the crypt of the Sagrada Família, underneath the continued efforts to finish his elaborate, colossal sanctuary.

That work is still underway, 90 years later. Current projections expect the Sagrada Família to be finished in 2026, in time for the 100th anniversary of the great architect's death.

The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images
This Just In
For $61, You Can Become a Co-Owner of This 13th-Century French Castle
Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images
Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images

A cultural heritage restoration site recently invited people to buy a French castle for as little as $61. The only catch? You'll be co-owning it with thousands of other donors. Now thousands of shareholders are responsible for the fate of the Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers in western France, and there's still room for more people to participate.

According to Mashable, the dilapidated structure has a rich history. Since its construction in the 13th century, the castle has been invaded by foreign forces, looted, renovated, and devastated by a fire. Friends of Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers, a small foundation formed in 2016 in an effort to conserve the overgrown property, want to see the castle restored to its former glory.

Thanks to a crowdfunding collaboration with the cultural heritage restoration platform Dartagnans, the group is closer than ever to realizing its mission. More than 9000 web users have contributed €51 ($61) or more to the campaign to “adopt” Mothe-Chandeniers. Now that the original €500,000 goal has been fulfilled, the property’s new owners are responsible for deciding what to do with their purchase.

“We intend to create a dedicated platform that will allow each owner to monitor the progress of works, events, project proposals and build a real collaborative and participatory project,” the campaign page reads. “To make an abandoned ruin a collective work is the best way to protect it over time.”

Even though the initial goal has been met, Dartagnans will continue accepting funds for the project through December 25. Money collected between now and then will be used to pay for various fees related to the purchase of the site, and new donors will be added to the growing list of owners.

The shareholders will be among the first to see the cleared-out site during an initial visit next spring. The rest of the public will have to wait until it’s fully restored to see the final product.

[h/t Mashable]


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