Semester Highlight: Private tour of La Sagrada Familia

Our last full week in Barcelona, we finally were able to visit the city’s most iconic piece of architecture, La Sagrada Familia. La Sagrada Familia is Antoni Gaudi’s largest and most famous project, and one that is still under construction. Construction commenced in 1883 and continued through Gaudi’s tragic death in 1926. Gaudi dedicated the last portion of his life solely to the Sagrada Familia, because he knew it would not be completed in his lifetime. So he built an endless amount of models and centenary form studies with the intention of them being the framework to complete the project in the coming decades. 127 years later, the church is still only about two-thirds complete, but because of an increase in tourism and private donations, the pace of construction has drastically accelerated. The estimated completion date is in the year 2026, the 100 year anniversary of Gaudi’s death.

Visiting the Sagrada Familia was one of our most anticipated events of the entire semester. The Pope visited Barcelona on November 7th in order to consecrate the church (making it a basilica), which caused our visit to be pushed to nearly the end of the semester. But it was worth the wait. As a result of the Pope’s visit, a major deadline was set to close up the main prayer space and the end of the nave, which had been open air previous to this year. The main floor was cleared of scaffolding and equipment. The entire building was in effect cleaned up for his arrival. We visited the basilica the week after the Pope, so we were some of the first people to see it in such condition.

In addition, our Barcelona architect-connection Cecilia, was able to arrange a private tour of the building with one of the current project architects on the job. So, not only were we some of the first visitors to see the cleaned up interior, but we also were given a tour up into the construction zones and onto the roof.

The tour started inside the main entrance at the end of the nave (the entrance isn’t constructed yet, but the interior wall is up to close off the space). Here are a few pictures looking down the nave and prayer space from a balcony over the main entry:

 

 

We then went down onto the main floor and explored around the nave, transept and chancel:

Some of the amazing stained glass:

And the reflection on the organ pipes:

We then went up a restricted-access elevator with our guide, and ended up here:

This is up on the roof above the nave, right next to where the giant crossing tower is being currently being constructed. We traversed up, down, and through an incredibly dense forest of scaffolding in order to get to different platforms and viewpoints around the church:

Looking down onto the floor of the church (where we started) at the crossing:

We then went down into the model shop located beneath the main floor of the basilica, where all of the analysis and reconstruction of Gaudi’s original models takes place:

An awesome in-progress floor plan model:

A small scale model of the whole building – the 4 towers on the right and the main crossing tower (along with another central tower) have yet to be constructed:

That concluded our tour, but of course none of us wanted to leave then. We spend some more time walking around the main floor and around the outside, observing the incredible detail and care involved in the design and construction. I visited La Sagrada Familia two years ago when I was last in Barcelona, but this visit blew me away even more. The amount of progress over the past two years was pretty incredible (thanks mostly to the Pope’s visit), but also getting the chance to go up into the heart of the construction was something I will never forget. The majority of us agreed that this visit was the highlight of our semester, and that we can’t wait to return once it is completed. And yes, it is amazing enough to make us plan 16 years into our future.

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