Urban Design for La Sagrada Família

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Roofscape details of the Sagrada Família basilica in Barcelona. All photos by Nicolai Steinø

How should the urban space surrounding the world famous basilica of La Sagrada Família in Barcelona be designed? This is the challenging question which the participants of this year’s summer workshop at the School of Architecture of Barcelona (ETSAB) have been asked to give answers to.

Along with architecture students and professors from Montréal, Curitiba, Hong Kong and Milano, five students from A&D and myself have been invited to this workshop to work with students and professors from the ETSAB. The workshop lasts for two weeks, in which 5 mixed teams with participants from all the participating schools of architecture are supposed to come up with each their proposal.

The workshop includes a series of lectures and guided tours. Yesterday, we were invited to visit the construction site of the basilica. This was a breathtaking experience, which took us by means of rattling construction lifts and narrow scaffoldings to two of the current levels of construction at 45 and 60 meters height.

Originally designed by Antoni Gaudí who died in 1926, construction of this magical edifice has now entered its 125th year, and construction is anticipated to last for another 20 years. As current chief architect of the basilica, Jordi Bonet is now in charge of interpreting the design intent of Gaudí, which is only partly known due to the destruction of many original drawings and scale models, in fires during the Spanish civil war.

Bonet who is an elderly man, personally guided our dizzying visit to the construction site in the sky, explaining about Gaudí’s design ideas and the current design team’s efforts to interpret them. As Gaudí knew that he would not live to complete the building, he developed a system of geometric rules for its design, allowing for others to complete it in his spirit.

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Students and professors at work during the 4th ETSAB summer workshop 2007

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Students preparing initial designs for the first pin-up

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Students and professors discussing studies and design proposals

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Jordi Bonet explains the geometric logic of Gaudí’s design on the construction site of the Sagrada Família

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A familiar element from an unfamiliar angle

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