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Barcelona Sagrada Familia | by Wolfgang Staudt
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Barcelona Sagrada Familia

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La Sagrada Família is a massive Roman Catholic basilica under construction in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. Construction began in 1882 and its formal title is Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família. Antoni Gaudí worked on the project for over 40 years, devoting the last 15 years of his life entirely to this endeavour. On the subject of the extremely long construction period, Gaudí is said to have joked, "My client is not in a hurry." After Gaudí's death in 1926, work continued under the direction of Domènech Sugranyes until interrupted by the Spanish Civil War in 1935.

 

Parts of the unfinished building and Gaudí's models and workshop were destroyed during the war by Catalan anarchists. The design, as now being constructed, is based both on reconstructed versions of the lost plans and on modern adaptations. Since 1940 the architects Francesc Quintana, Isidre Puig Boada, Lluís Bonet i Gari and Francesc Cardoner have carried on the work. The current director and son of Lluís Bonet, Jordi Bonet i Armengol, has been introducing computers into the design and construction process since the 1980s. Mark Burry of New Zealand serves as Executive Architect and Researcher. Sculptures by J. Busquets, Etsuro Sotoo and the controversial Josep Subirachs decorate the fantastical façades.

 

According to the newspaper El Periódico de Catalunya, 2.26 million people visited the partially built basilica in 2004, making it one of the most popular attractions in Spain. The central nave vaulting was completed in 2000 and the main tasks since then have been the construction of the transept vaults and apse. Current work (2006) concentrates on the crossing and supporting structure for the main tower of Jesus Christ as well as the southern enclosure of the central nave which will become the Glory façade.

 

Recently, the Ministry of Public Works of Spain (Ministerio de Fomento in Spanish), has projected the construction of a tunnel for the high speed train just under where the principal façade of the temple has to be built. Although the ministry affirms that the project has no risk, the engineers and architects of the temple disagree as there are no guarantees that the tunnel will not affect the stability of the building.

 

Design

 

Every part of the design of La Sagrada Família is rich with Christian symbolism, as Gaudí intended the church to be the "last great sanctuary of Christendom". Its most striking aspect is its spindle-shaped towers. A total of 18 tall towers are called for, representing in ascending order of height the Twelve Apostles, the four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary and, tallest of all, Jesus Christ. (According to the 2005 "Works Report" of the temple's official website, drawings signed by Gaudí found recently in the Municipal Archives indicate that the tower of the Virgin was in fact intended by Gaudí to be shorter than those of the evangelists, and this is the design — which the Works Report states is more compatible with the existing foundations — that will be followed. The same source explains the symbolism in terms of Christ being known through the Evangelists.) The Evangelists' towers will be surmounted by sculptures of their traditional symbols: a bull (St Luke), a winged man (St Matthew), an eagle (St John), and a lion (St Mark). The central tower of Jesus Christ is to be surmounted by a giant cross; the tower's total height (170 m) will be one metre less than that of Montjuïc, as Gaudí believed that his work should not surpass that of God. Lower towers are surmounted by communion hosts with sheaves of wheat and chalices with bunches of grapes, representing the Eucharist.

 

The Church will have three grand façades: the Nativity façade to the East, the Glory façade to the South (yet to be completed) and the Passion façade to the West. The Nativity facade was built before work was interrupted in 1935 and bears the most direct Gaudí influence. The Passion façade is especially striking for its spare, gaunt, tormented characters, including emaciated figures of Christ being flogged and on the crucifix. These controversial designs are the work of Subirachs.

 

The towers on the Nativity façade are crowned with geometrically shaped tops that are reminiscent of Cubism (they were finished around 1930), and the intricate decoration is contemporary to the style of Art Nouveau, but Gaudí's unique style drew primarily from nature, not other artists or architects, and resists categorization.

 

Themes throughout the decoration include words from the liturgy. The towers are decorated with words such as "Hosanna", "Excelsis", and "Sanctus"; the great doors of the Passion façade reproduce words from the Bible in various languages including Catalan; and the Glory façade is to be decorated with the words from the Apostles' Creed.

 

Areas of the sanctuary will be designated to represent various concepts, such as saints, virtues and sins, and secular concepts such as regions, presumably with decoration to match.

 

The building works are expected to be completed around 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death, although the likelihood of meeting this date is disputed. Computer modelling has been used for the detailed design of the intricate structure of supporting columns inside the basilica. See also catenary. CAD/CAM technology has been used to speed up the construction of the building; initially, the construction work was expected to last for several hundred years, based on building techniques available in the early 1900s. The construction work calls for many pieces of stone to be machined to unique shapes, each being subtly different from the next, and these pieces are now being machined accurately off-site, reducing the overall construction time.

 

Antoni Gaudí (born in Riudoms) used hyperboloid structures in later designs of the Sagrada Família (more obviously after 1914), however there are a few places on the nativity façade—a design not equated with Gaudi's ruled-surface design, where the hyperboloid crops up. For example, all around the scene with the pelican there are numerous examples (including the basket held by one of the figures). There is a hyperboloid adding structural stability to the cypress tree (by connecting it to the bridge). And finally, the "bishop's mitre" spires are capped with hyperboloid structures. In his later designs ruled surfaces are prominent in the nave's vaults and windows and the surfaces of the Passion facade.

 

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Taken on May 21, 2004