The first question, on entering the completed interior of the church of Sagrada Família, is: “Is it really there?” We have been so long accustomed to the idea that Barcelona’s most famous landmark is a permanent ruin, unfinished and unfinishable, that it comes as a shock to find it is now keeping out the weather. Source: Rowan Moore, The Guardian
The expiatory church of La Sagrada Família is a work on a grand scale which was begun on 19 March 1882 from a project by the diocesan architect Francisco de Paula del Villar (1828-1901). At the end of 1883 Gaudí was commissioned to carry on the works, a task which he did not abandon until his death in 1926. Since then different architects have continued the work after his original idea.
The building is in the centre of Barcelona, and over the years it has become one of the most universal signs of identity of the city and the country. It is visited by millions of people every year and many more study its architectural and religious content.
It has always been an expiatory church, which means that since the outset, 133 years ago now, it has been built from donations. Gaudí himself said: “The expiatory church of La Sagrada Família is made by the people and is mirrored in them. It is a work that is in the hands of God and the will of the people.” The building is still going on and could be finished some time in the first third of the 21st century. Source: Sagrada Familia.cat
When the final stone is set in place, the Sagrada Família will be the world’s tallest church, soaring 560-ft (170-m) above the Catalan capital. It will also be the strangest looking and possibly the most controversial place of worship ever built on such an epic scale. Looking for all the world like a cluster of gigantic stone termites’ nest, a colossal vegetable patch, a gingerbread house baked by the wickedest witch of all or perhaps a petrified forest, this hugely ambitious church has confounded architects, critics and historians ever since its unprecedented shape became apparent soon after World War I.
George Orwell said it was “one of the most hideous buildings in the world” and rather hoped it would be destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. Salvador Dalí spoke of its “terrifying and edible beauty”, saying it should be kept under a glass dome. Walter Gropius, master of right-angled architecture and founder of the Bauhaus, praised its technical perfection. Louis Sullivan, the great American architect, and “father of skyscrapers”, described it as “spirit symbolised in stone.”
When the mind-numbingly complex stone vault over the 150-ft (45.7-m) high nave was completed in 2010 and the basilica consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI, the debate reignited. According to Manuel Vicent, a columnist for the Madrid daily El Pais, “The only saving grace of the Temple of the Sagrada Família was the fact that it was unfinished, the dream of a genius driven crazy by mystic reveries. Now it will completed with the money of tourism, and when its walls are finally enclosed, there will be no one inside but Japanese tourists.”
Those who take against the Sagrada Família do so largely because they refuse to see beyond its richly decorated and apparently arbitrary forms. Scratch the surface, though, and this mind-bending building proves to be a tour-de-force of highly sophisticated mathematics and advanced structural engineering. Gaudí based his designs on the complex forms we know today (or ought to know) as helicoids, hyperboloids and hyperbolic paraboloids. These are forms abstracted from nature and then translated into the design of the columns, vaults and intersecting geometric elements of the structure of the Sagrada Família. Look up at the vault crowning the interior of the basilica’s nave. Does this resemble a dense forest of trees with sunlight shining through it? Gaudí hoped you might see it like this. Everything he designed, he said, “comes from the Great Book of Nature”. His ‘textbooks’ were the mountains and caves he loved to explore. Source: Jonathan Glancey,BBC
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