Most Interior Designers have studied and read all about the Spanish Art Nuevo Architect, Antonio Gaudi but it was only until recently when I passed through Barcelona on my travels I was able to come face to face with one of his most famous works – The Sagrada Familia. It was amazing to see this building in the flesh and finally understand what all the fuss was about.
The Sagrada Familia is perhaps the best-known structure of Catalan Modernisme
5 generations have witnessed the construction of this temple, which won’t be finished for another 9 years time. Work began in 1882 and Gaudi took over in 1884 making most of his opportunity to express his strong religious feelings. Gaudi worked on it tirelessly for over 40 years, living as a virtual hermit in a workshop on the site. When questioned about the slow pace, he is said to have replied, “My client is not in a hurry”
When walking up to the exterior of the church my first thought was the four towers protruding upwards somewhat resembled a strange waffle cone with drips – almost alien like in form but remarkably mysterious and beautiful. Gaudi designed the three iconic facades for the basilica to represent Glory, Nativity and Passion. All sides of the church are remarkable in detail with intricate corbelling and angular sculptures. Going inside the church was just as spectacular. Just like the exterior every door, every column, and almost every area inside has its own rich symbolic significance.
The layout of the church was designed like the Latin cross. In the centre is the raised altar, crowned by the Latin cross with a canopy, decorated with vines (Gaudí’s only concession to the traditional church design). The altar is surrounded by seven chapels and two side stairs to the left and right. These lead to spiral staircases from the crypt and continue up into the facades. As an indication of the spiral staircase you see two big stone snails crawling down the wall on the outer walls of the apse. The inside walls of the apse are decorated with angels’ heads and tears that should remind one of the suffering of Jesus.
The vault and pillar system inside the basilica have basic features to the gothic style but rather than relying on exterior elements, horizontal loads are transferred through columns in the interior. The pillars and archers supported by them create a stone forest of palm trees. With no supporting sidewalls this allowed Gaudi to let lots of light to stream in through large windows and the vault. Allowing natural light to flood through was very rare for a church of his time.
The essence of Gaudi’s architecture
The essence of Gaudi’s architecture is based on nature and the beauty of its fluid free forms. This is why there is no model within the architecture for the vault-and-pillar system in the church. All the interior is made up of three-dimensional forms comprised of ruled surfaces, including hyperboloids, parabolas, helicoids, and conoids. These complex shapes allow for a thinner, finer structure, and are intended to enhance the temple’s acoustics and quality of light.
Once completed, La Sagrada Familia will feature eighteen towers composed to present a unique view of the temple from any single vantage point. The central tower will reach 72 meters in height and symbolize Christ. It will stand strong and fierce in Barcelona’s skyline.
Gaudi’s church is definitely something to be admired. To say the design and structure is beyond his time is true but it’s more then that – it’s something out of this world. I’ve already planned to schedule another trip in Barcelona in 2025 to see it all finished