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  • CITIZENS: Gaudí's temple will be covered at the end of the first decade of the twenty-first Century

    The work of Subirachs on the Sagrada Familia, begun in 1987, enters its final phase

    The acceleration of work in recent years will allow the main nave to be finished by the end of this year, the transept in three years and the apse, which completes the roof, within ten years

    Barcelona. - The image of the Sagrada Familia as a work that will never be finished is beginning to fade away. Sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs completed the Passion Facade last year, three and a half years less than the previously forecasted fifteen years. And technicians expect the main temple to be covered by the end of the next decade. The culmination of Gaudí's work will no longer be a utopia in the twenty-first Century, which is about to arrive.

    It has been about thirteen years since Joan Anton Maragall, president of the Council on the Sagrada Familia, asked Subirachs to sculpt the Passion Facade, which Gaudí had only been able to sketch in drawings. In early 1987, Subirachs went to live, like the Renaissance masters, in the temple itself, and organized a fifteen-year work plan. On April 14 of last year, he placed the final sculptural set, and then the council asked him to sculpt four large figures of apostles to be placed on the towers, and the bronze door for the facade. He has now been working on these projects for months.

    The working pace in the workshop which Subirachs and his two assistants run alongside the construction area has accelerated at the same rate as the construction of the temple. At the end of this year, the 1,500-square-meter central nave of the temple will be completed, and when the platforms where the builders are now working are removed, the magnificent 45-meter high flat-brick vaults will be visible. It was on the roof of this vault that an awesome crane, reaching 140 meters above street level, was placed before last Christmas.

    Construction has also begun on the transept; the foundation is already finished, and four basalt columns have been raised, with their knots and upper branches that, in the future, will support the vaults and domes of the "towers of the evangelists." This section is expected to be finished in about three years. The Polytechnic University of Catalonia, the University of Deakin (Australia) and the University of Wellington (New Zealand) are already working on the computer drafting for the construction of the transept. The students of the Gaudí Institute of Construction also collaborate, representing trade schools of stonemasonry and bricklaying.

    Current projects include the north stairway of the apse, with an elevator that will carry visitors to the 30- and 45-meter vaults. S states that "one of the mysteries that this temple encloses are the labyrinths that are taking shape over the vaults."

    The next segment of the general plan is the apse, with which the temple will be completely covered. The technical team, managed by architect Jordi Bonet, calculates that this portion of the Sagrada Familia, an architectural jewel, in which the entire Church of Santa Maria del Mar could be hidden, capable of harboring 15,000 people, will be finished within ten years.

    While the Sagrada Familia has been primarily a building under construction for the past century, after the nave is completed, it will be a temple of worship that will be available for use as the great cathedral of Barcelona. It should be mentioned that, at this time, the temple and museum are the most-visited monument of Catalonia. Last year, 1,092,155 visitors purchased tickets.

    With the completion of all these sections, two projects will remain pending that, until now, seemed inaccessible. The first is the Gloria Facade, which faces the Carrer de Mallorca, which Antoni Gaudí intended to be the main door. This access, as conceived by Gaudí, with broad stairways, was sacrificed twenty years ago with the construction of an apartment building across the street.

    The final work of the temple should be the six towers that emerge over the central nave. The highest, the Tower of the Savior, was planned to be 175 meters high (the existing towers are 120 meters high). More fundraising weekends like the one held earlier this year will be needed in order to build them.

    Josep Playa Maset
    La Vanguardia
    Monday, May 31, 1999

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