I went to see this wonderful piece of architecture in the flesh earlier this year. The way it intrudes everything around it, demanding attention from everyone is quite something. People from all over the world come to see this amazing building. The way that a Gaudi Designed building sits between normal modern looking buildings is totally bizzarr, it almost takes you to another reality where everything almost melts. The textures, shapes and angles have such an impact on the way you feel when you look at it, whether you see it from across the street or you are standing underneath one of the over hanging ledges. It it totally mesmerizing at all angles.
Antonio Gaudi (1852–1926) developed a very distinct style of sculpture and architecture. A lot of his works are quite big, monstrous and highly hallucinatory. It has been said that his early works were some what Gothic, and if you have seen any of his works, whether in the flesh or in photographs you will realise why. The shapes, angles and the way it has been designed is almost like seeing his dark thoughts and feelings as he designed it, the over hanging designs that pierce the space and makes everything a little uncomfortable is fantastic.
“Gothic art is imperfect, it means to solve; it is the style of the compass, the formula of industrial repetition. Its stability is based on the permanent propping of abutments: it is a defective body that holds with support… gothic works produce maximum emotion when they are mutilated, covered with ivy and illuminated by the moon.”
The piece I would like to concentrate on is the piece that I have seen for myself that is still to this day unfinished and is constantly being worked on to Gaudi’s original design – La Sagrada Familia. This particular design was created using a new method of structural calculation based on a model that he built to perfect where columns were going to be etc. It was a very clever way to perfect a building before building it, the structure was changed and adapted according to the weight distribution and stresses that were being put on the model as it was all weighted to a percentage of the actual weight. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2026. Gaudí is said to have remarked, “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 1936. Parts of the unfinished barn and Gaudí’s models and workshop were destroyed during the war by Catalan anarchists. The present design is based on reconstructed versions of the lost plans as well as 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 illumination was designed by Carles Buigas. 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.
The design itself is based on the idea that it is the “last great sanctuary of Christendom” so is full of Christian symbolism. Its most striking aspect is its spindle-shaped spires. A total of eighteen high spires 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 spire 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’ spires 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 spire of Jesus Christ is to be surmounted by a giant cross; the spires’ total height (170 m) will be one metre less than that of Montjuïc (a hill in Barcelona), as Gaudí believed that his work should not surpass that of God and will, when completed, make Sagrada Familia the tallest church building in the world as well as the church with the tallest spire in the world. The lower spires are surmounted by communion hosts with sheaves of wheat and chalices with bunches of grapes, representing the Eucharist.
Throughout his life he had been obsessed by natures angles and curves, and used them as inspiration in his own designs. The hyperboloid and parabolic s he borrowed from nature were easily replicated by steel rods and allowed his designs to resemble elements from the environment thus he stands as one of history’s most original architects.