Archive for the ‘Sagrada Familia’ Category

Yesterday I wrote about the precautions Gaudi took to leave behind adequate visual descriptions of his work.

In that same vein, most instructors of the Advanced Detailing class tell us to create our drawings so that a contractor could understand what we want even if we are not there to explain. I do not believe they intended to address the morbid scenario of us actually not being alive to give clarifications, but the point is that the design representations we produce are our design until it is physically built. While we will not experience the project timeline that Gaudi faced, there may relatively long periods from concept to construction to completion. What if the economy collapses and all projects are put on hold indefinitely (just a hypothetical :-)? In this situation your designs are getting stale, your memory and closeness to the details are fading, and when that project is revived 2 years later, how strong will your design be if it is only as good as representations that you created?

While there are fantastic digital tools out there to help us to document and visualize our design, it is many times our study models, circulation diagrams and sketches that really describe our design and more importantly, our intention. Of course, we must have construction documents in order to begin building, but that does not mean that the diagrams that got us there are irrelevant. I look at Sagrada Familia and I cannot imagine the size of the specifications package that would be needed to describe the elements involved. However with sketches and models after more than 100 years we still have a good understanding about the specifics of Gaudi’s vision.

I think the question for us as designers that we can take from Gaudi’s epic construction phase is how do we make sure that people understand our design intentions? Even if we are not there at the beginning and maybe not there at the end, could our design speak for itself through our representations?

Throughout my trip in Spain, I was consistently reminded of the lessons we learned at Harrington. Keep reading as I share more of my design experiences over the upcoming months from beautiful Barcelona!

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Gaudi anticipated the need to leave behind a direction for the next generation to follow for the continuation of his design in the Sagrada Familia Church, and did it with study sketches and many, many scale models. If you are interested, here is a nice summary of the construction process of the Sagrada Familia at www.gaudiallgaudi.com. Before his untimely death, Gaudi completed several studies for each of the magnificent facades, published several calculations including ones for the main dome, and tirelessly built 1:10 scale models of a large number of the interior elements.What I think we can take from his approach is that one view is not enough and not all methods of describing a design are appropriate for all elements. Anyone who has seen the built façades knows they are not two-dimensional, but Gaudi uses them to tell a linear story and therefore the study sketches of the scenes and the placements make sense. The models for the interior also seem appropriate given the sculptural nature of the elements. Maybe it was because he did not have the luxury (or the constraint) of building a full-scale BIM model that he had to be more efficient in his choice of design documentation. In any case, Gaudi spent a good deal of time at the end of his life making sure that there was adequate visual descriptions of his work that could be used to actually build the church.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about how what I learned in class applied to this concept of creating adequate visual descriptions.

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I finished yesterday’s post with the question of what was to be learned from Gaudi’s unfinished work at the Sagrada Familia Church.First of all, we do not have to be the first designer to be the best designer. Particularly in the world of interiors, we are often dealing with elements that were started or built by someone else. When Gaudi took over, the Sagrada’s crypt was almost entirely completed in a neo-gothic style that was very popular at the time. As the new architect, Gaudi did not throw his hands in the air and insist that it all be torn down. He found a way to blend and morph this existing neo-gothic base into a structure that was entirely his own. He found an inventive way to improve on the design by building a “moat” around the top of the crypt that would let in light and keep the area from feeling like a dark underground space. As designers we will rarely have a clean slate to deal with, but that does not mean that we have to curb our creativity or concede to just “live with it”. Most would agree that addressing an existing condition will likely inspire our best ideas.

Even though Gaudi worked with the existing crypt, by 1890 he had completed his own concept for the remaining un-built components of the Sagrada Familia and he quickly realized that his design simply could not be built in his lifetime. The current anticipated completion date is 2030 and that factors in all of the latest technologies and (according to the audio tour) almost 200 people working on it every day. While his death was premature, Gaudi had anticipated the need to leave behind direction for the next generation to follow as they continued his work. How did he do it? How would I do this?

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Even if you were just passively listening in your History of Architecture II class you will remember one name in connection with Barcelona … Gaudi. Antonio Gaudi was born in 1852 and worked during the “Modernismo” period in Catalonia, similar to the Art Nouveau movements in other parts of the world. Considered a golden age of design for this region of Spain, “Modernismo” created a simply amazing body of work that still exists in Barcelona today.Gaudi is considered the heart and soul of Modernismo design in Barcelona, and you literally cannot walk down the street without seeing references to him as even the sidewalk tile patterns are one of his designs. One of the most famous and intriguing of all his works is the church named Sagrada Familia (The Holy Family). Famous for its elaborate, intricate, and expressive design, the Sagrada Familia has an enormous physical presence in the Eixample district of Barcelona. It is intriguing to me because it was neither started nor finished by Gaudi – and is in fact still not finished.

Sagrada Familia was started in 1882 under the direction of parish architect Francisco de Villar. After a couple of months of construction there were disagreements with the society that commissioned the church and in 1883 Antonio Gaudi, at the age of 31, was asked to take over the project. While he completed many other spectacular spaces in Barcelona, this was to become his life’s work. At age 74 he was crossing the street to leave the unfinished church, which he was then living in, and was hit by a tram. A dramatic story to say the least but, what if anything can we learn from this church and from this story as a designers? Keep reading tomorrow to find out…

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