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14/08/17

Gaudí and Direct Ergonomics

The architecture of Antoni Gaudí is a great focus of international attraction, as can be verified every day by Barcelona’s residents. But in addition to the buildings, there are a number of works by this artist that also powerfully attract attention: these are his domestic furniture designs, which were custom created for each of his clients. The most notable pieces are, without a doubt, his chairs: organic, warm, original.
Gaudí designed chairs for some of his principal clients: Calvet, Batlló and Milà.  In relation to some of these chairs an anecdote is told that, like so many things in Gaudí’s life, lends itself to all sorts of variants, doubts and controversies.  And it is that being a popular character, already in life, it is not easy to discern what is true or false in this information that are propagated orally. In fact, most of the phrases attributed to Gaudí were transmitted by this channel and, therefore, can easily be questioned.
It is said that, on one occasion, Gaudí designed a custom-made chair for his client by placing her on a mass of fresh plaster, which resulted in a negative molding of her backside that served for the definitive form of the wooden chair: it would be one of the first cases of direct ergonomics.

 

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Unfortunately, the same anecdote has also come to us in the male version: for the chairs of the Milà house, Gaudí would have made the molds to the measure of the behind one of the masons who worked on the work. Recurring strategy? Apocryphal history with several avatars? Or is it true that it cannot be accurately documented?  
The story was captured in the film Antonio Gaudí, An Unfinished Vision (1974), by John Alaimo, with the actor José Luis López Vázquez in the role of the architect: the carpenter does not know how to shape the chair and Gaudí shows him empirically how to achieve it. Without affirming or denying the veracity of one or other of these two anecdotes, it is worth remembering that Gaudí seems to have already attempted to design different pieces of furniture for men and women, which the owner of the house vehemently opposed.

 
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