Monday, August 6, 2012

Gaudi or Not Gaudi?

London's Architectural Review sent me to Barcelona this summer to take a look at progress on Antoní Gaudi's Sagrada Familia. I interviewed Jordi Bonet, the 87-year-old architect in charge of the work, and judged his arguments in defense of the project against the evidence at hand:
"Bonet and his predecessors may have captured the geometries of Gaudí’s design, but the fervid textures of his overworked surfaces, and his vital fusion of structural logic, formal serendipity and an original sense for materials and craft (early-20th-century craft at that) are completely lost. Take in the mad profusion of sculpture and fussy surfaces of the lower parts of the Nativity Portal, for example, which are liquid, lumpy and dark like a poured sandcastle (and quite scatological as Catalan art tends to be, from Joan Miró to Antoni Tàpies, reveling in the plastic richness of mud). And now turn to the raw concrete porch of the Passion Facade on the opposite side, with its awkwardly angled piers and architraves. There may be a Gaudí drawing that traces these exact forms, but my bet is that the eccentric master of Reus wouldn’t have left the matter there."

Photo 1
Christ parachutes down over the main altar, in an interpretation of surviving reproductions of a tiny sectional drawing by Gaudi.

Photo 2
My hosts brought me up above the vaults of the nave, where the raw brick and concrete of the roof structure may be the closest thing to the spirit of Gaudi in the new work.

Photo 3
Clouds collaborate in the dizzying rise of towers and scaffolds into the heavens. Is Barcelona ready for the 170-meter lantern and cross that are under construction above the crossing of the nave, and that will transform the city's skyline?

Photo 4
Detail of the Passion Portal
All photos: DC

Gaudi's Sacred Monster
Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
The Architectural Review, August 2012


  1. The frenetic and mathamatical forms at Sagrada Familia seemed vaguely familiar, and when I went to Park Guell I realized what it was--it was like walking through photomicrographs of bilogical structures-- veins, cartilage, tumors-- gone wrong. Monster is the right word, and while the ideas are interesting, not all ideas have to be made manifest.
    Many biological forms and patterns have grace and beauty, but Gaudi's have gone to too close a scale. They are disturbing and do not appeal, especially for a place of meditation.

    1. Very interesting observations -- taking the lessons of nature a step too far. That's my complaint about the work of the Spanish engineer Santiago Calatrava. But I am a fan of Gaudí, he was the real thing. My problem is with this schlock kitsch continuation of a project the crazy master from Reus couldn't finish.