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  • 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 Faulí said.

    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 shapes.

    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.

    Rosario Fontova
    El Periódico de Catalunya
    22 October 2000

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