Sagrada Familia: The Unfulfilled Vision of a Unique Architect

Sagrada Familia: The Unfulfilled Vision of a Unique Architect

Today the architectural world remains divided. Should the cathedral be completed in a less ambitious contemporary style? Or should it be left, unfinished, as an original creation?

Sagrada Familia: The Unfulfilled Vision of a Unique Architect

By Mr Ghaz, August 14, 2011

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Sagrada Familia: The Unfulfilled Vision of a Unique Architect

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One exhibit in the Paris Exhibition of 1910 stole the show. It was a plaster model of a church designed by the Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi – a design so daring and outrageous that it was difficult to believe anyone seriously consider building it.

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An extraordinary fusion of Gothic and Art Nouveau in style, the model was painted in vibrant colors that further enhanced the exuberant design. The plans called for spotlights to direct shafts of light into parts of the interior. Three sets of bell towers, housing both manually operated and electronically controlled tubular bells, were to be topped by stone statues of cherubim with wings that would move in the wind.

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One  Man’s Vision

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Not only was this unconventional design approved and commissioned but at the time of the exhibition the church was already under construction. Gaudi himself had been working on the Church of the Sagrada Familia (Church of the Holy Family) in Barcelona since 1883. He continued to work on it until his death in 1926, when he was run over by a trolley. The church is still unfinished today.

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What there is of it is breathtaking. Many of Gaudi’s more unusual ideas have been carried out, partly because his models and plans were destroyed during a fire in 1935 and, more importantly, because the church was one man’s vision and was eclipsed upon his death.

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The Role of the Cast

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The Sagrada Familia is a dominant feature of Barcelona. The building stands on a terrace nearly 12 feet high, surrounded by a dry moat. Its highly decorated towers, with turrets that one critic compared to “termite hills or crustaceous creatures,” soar into the sky, dwarfing nearby buildings.

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Although Gaudi’s plans for the central section of the church were never realized, the three main entrance are complete, decorated with elaborate sculptures depicting biblical scenes, animals, flowers, and trees.

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All the sculptures were based on life models, Ordinary inhabitants of Barcelona were carefully picked according to age and physique to match their biblical counterparts. A tableau depicting the Massacre of the Innocents (King Herold’s attempt to destroy Jesus by killing all children under the age of two) included a Roman soldier, modeled that the man had six toes on each. Although the sculptor, Lorenzo Matamala, had wanted to disguise the deformity, Gaudi insisted that it be seen: “It is an anomaly, just as it is an anomaly to kill children!”

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Hundreds of photographs were taken of the models posed in front of mirrors so that every angle of the body could be captured realistically. To obtain the exact position of the body Gaudi wanted to achieve, his team also studied skeletons. The faces and bodies of all the models were molded in plaster, a dangerous procedure that could result in death if the plaster were left on too long.

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True Dedication

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The same attention was shown to all detail. The birds Gaudi chose were killed and the arranged into the required position for the sculptor to copy. They too would be photographed and a plaster cast created. Stillborn babies from the local hospital were used in the same way. Every leaf, flower, and grain of corn was photographed, even inanimate objects were given the same treatment.

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The Sagrada Familia shaped Gaudi’s life. At the beginning of the project, he was a 31 year oldd dandy who enjoyed the pleasures of life and had some quarrels with the established church. Ten years later he was deeply religious and vegetarian who chose to live a life of severe austerity  Toward the end of his life he dedicated himself to the cathedral, living on the site in uncomfortable conditions. Gaudi became so obsessed by the project that he was driven to beg for donations.

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Since Gaudi’s death, work on the church has continued in a slow, spasmodic way, based on his original plans; many people feel that the building will never be finished. Gaudi had planned that the building would take generations to complete, but his vision was perhaps too personal and did not consider the fact that few others would continue with the same forceful conviction.

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12 Comments
CHAN LEE PENG, posted this comment on Jun 29th, 2010

The design of this building was unexceptionally unique and attractive. I wrote on this building before in my church article.

Jenny Heart, posted this comment on Jun 29th, 2010

Exceptional article indeed!

Starpisces, posted this comment on Jun 29th, 2010

very cleverly done article.
:)

Anuradha Ramkumar, posted this comment on Jun 29th, 2010

Incredible.

revivor, posted this comment on Jun 29th, 2010

I’ve been there myself and it is a pretty amazing building as your article indicates

Darlene McFarlane, posted this comment on Jun 29th, 2010

A magnificently executed article. It is one of the most interesting write-ups I have read in a long time.

M, posted this comment on Jun 30th, 2010

Why don’t you mention the fact that much of the current design on the building is being done by the artist Subirachs?

rob, posted this comment on Jun 30th, 2010

Very interesting article. Gaudi was and is a genius. A few weeks ago on the TV show Fringe, Gaudi’s Grand Hotel was briefly shown during a quick fly over in Manhattan.

By the way, whoever shot the pictures that accompany this article: dial down the HR settings. A little bit enhances a picture, too much makes the image painfully unviewable.

T. S. GARP, posted this comment on Jul 7th, 2010

Wow, these are quite amazing. Great photos and good article.

Brewed Coffee, posted this comment on Sep 26th, 2010

Amazing! That is quite a vision. Truly an inspired genius.

papaleng, posted this comment on Jan 29th, 2011

Excellent share! Stunning photos and a well-detailed description. Keep them coming, friend.

Jessica Janes, posted this comment on Mar 4th, 2011

Unique vision is so rare. What an amazing mind and approach. It would be fun to meet him for coffee.

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