Saturday, May 3, 2014

Covering the New Celestial Jerusalem

Yours truly (the tall guy) and Jordi Fauli, head architect of the Sagrada Familia, with one of the lighting fixtures

 In this month's Architectural Record, I return to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, this time to take a look at the lighting:
"The level of detail that the design team has found for these lighting elements amid the fragments of Gaudí's studio is astounding, though they haven't hesitated to use the most advanced technical means to realize them."
 It was fun to put critical aloofness aside and share with the architects and lighting designers their delight in technical invention, and to groove in their weirdness, with mystical references to the "Celestial Jerusalem" and other ocult symbology that didn't make it into the text.

Thankfully, no one seemed to remember my critical article on the temple in The Architectural Review from 2012  (see blog entry here). Or they were nice enough not to mention it. We all gave each other a sporting chance.

As a special treat, head architect Jordi Faulí invited me back after the temple had closed, to see how the lighting worked at night. As we stood in the middle of the nave, Jordi's former boss and former head architect Jordi Bonet, who I had interviewed in 2012 for the Review, emerged from the shadows, an ancient, gnomic figure among gnomes, and captivated our little group with stories of Catalan greatness, rendered, with great deference to his foreign guest, in the hated Castillian tongue. The one story I sort of recall was about Catalan anti-Imperialist imperialism -- a noble Catalan general fending off a Russian incursion into California, in the days when Alaska was still Russian and California still Spanish, and converting the Indians instead of killing them off. Then Madrid spoiled it all somehow. Or whatever.

Another stellar moment was when Faulí described for me the exterior lighting for the towers, which he is building now (also didn't make the cut). Here's the section from my notes:
 JF: central tower w/a 4-armed cross, Jesus Cristo, 172 meters. Gaudi didn't want to rise above height Montjuic hill. "out of respect for the Creation"
4 towers of Evangelists around it: 135 m ea.
Apse: Virgin: 130 m
Towers of transepts: 100 m

JF: "un prodigio" all supported by interior columns of nave
JF: from 4-armed cross spot lights in each arm. "The light of Cristo to the pueblo. And this light reaches the people, how? The light doesn't pass to the street directly, but through the towers of the facades that represent the Apostles and Bishops. And from these Evangelists the Cross is lit. Because they are the ones who transmit the Word of Jesus. The Word of Cristo illumniates the world. Illuminates and is illuminated."
To give you an idea of what he's talking about, the tallest tower in Barcelona pushes 150 meters or so, if I'm not mistaken. All were designed deferring to the up-and-coming central tower of Gaudí, according to my new friends.

Tweety Bird lights on the columns Aren't they adorable? Photo by DC, up in the rafters
La Sagrada Familia
Lighting Gaudí's eccentric, posthumous masterpiece
Architectural Record, May 2014, p 166 - 169

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