The Sagrada Familia is growing relentlessly
Scaffolding has been removed, revealing
the ceiling of the central nave. Gaudí designed the vaults as
if they were the branches of a palm grove. The part of the temple
that is intended for use by devotees will be finished in 2007
Barcelona.- The dense stone palm grove that
Antoni Gaudí imagined as the interior ceiling of the Sagrada
Familia can already be seen. Part of the scaffolding has been
removed, revealing the "Gaudian" shape of the temple's central
nave as seen from the floor. The accelerated pace that the construction
work has taken on in recent years can be appreciated from the
South, from Carrer de Marina. The central nave, still under
construction, appears among the buildings like the prow of an
enormous liner that is crossing the Eixample quarter of Barcelona.
Inside of the temple-in-progress, on the side
next to Carrer de Mallorca, part of the scaffolding used to
work on the roof of the central nave has been removed. Now that
this obstacle has been removed, the sylvan shapes designed by
Gaudí can be observed from floor level, for the first time.
They are 45 meters tall. They consist of a series of Catalan-style
vaults based on a combination of hyperbolas and parabolas, geometric
shapes that arise from straight lines.
Gaudí wanted to create the impression of a palm
forest where the light that enters is sifted through the dense
foliage. The vertices of the vaults have been coated with green
and gold Venetian ceramic in order to accentuate the luminosity.
The light will enter through a series of circular skylights.
The vaults are supported by columns that are split to imitate
tree trunks. The effect will be even more impressive a month
from now, when another portion of the scaffolding will be removed.
"In the central nave appears the Gaudí who,
without renouncing architecture inspired by the shapes of nature,
works with geographic shapes, culminating the research that
was begun with the crypt of Colonia Güell," the architect Jordi
45 meters tall
The central nave is 45 meters tall, and the
exterior roofs will stand 60 meters above the transept and 75
meters above the apse. The central nave will be entirely finished
by 2007, although it will probably be used before then, for
some multitudinous event as part of the Year of Gaudí, which
will be held in 2001. The construction of the large columns
that sustain the nave is also very far along. Of the eight large
basalt pillars, six have been completed. The four porphyry columns
have already been raised and only one of the capitals remains
to be finished.
Gaudí's intuition in regard to the definitive
appearance of the central nave has recently been confirmed,
according to Jordi Bonet, the architect in charge of the construction
of the temple, in his research project "The last Gaudí." In
1997, a photograph was found in the Sugrañes archive that confirmed
the application of the design process. In the photograph, the
transept of the Nativity facade appears at a 1:25 scale with
a series of construction details similar to those that have
been achieved today, thanks to the computer design of geometric
On the West wall, above the Passion facade,
one can observe the rapid pace that has been applied to the
construction of the stained-glass windows, with their predominant
oval shapes. This set of windows measures 18 meters; the stained
glass will be installed soon.
In regard to the temple's decorative arts, in
regard to which Gaudí left fewer instructions than the structural
construction, sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs, the controversial
author of the Passion facade, has just finished the last apostle
of the set, which will include one hundred sculptures.
On the Nativity facade, Japanese sculptor Etzuro
Sotoo has finished the statues of two children singing. For
this facade, which was begun while Gaudí was still alive, the
statues were taken from natural models with plaster molds. At
one point, the face of a recently deceased indigent was even
used as a model.
Tourism is decisive for completing construction
Gaudí's posthumous work will be officially completed
within 50 years. In private, members of the temple committee
acknowledge that, if the economic boom persists and, with it,
the never-ending passage of visitors, that period could be shortened
by several decades. Last year, 1.2 million people came to the
Sagrada Familia (entrance fees are 800 pesetas), and a 10% increase
has been forecasted.
Fundraising from visitors covers almost 1 billion
pesetas of the annual construction budget. The total also includes
everything from humble alms to millionaire inheritances and
real estate investments received by the Sagrada Familia. In
addition, the speedy progress of construction can be explained
by the technological advances that are accelerating tasks that
used to be done slowly and by hand.
El Periódico de Catalunya
22 October 2000