I really like art. I often find it touches me. But it is only rarely that it moves me.
Last time I visited the Sagrada Familia there was not much to be seen on the inside yet. The roof was being finished and the inside was all boarded up, besides a small corridor that lead to the towers.
This time, when I entered the central nave… I was moved.
For a while I just stood there, staring at the ceiling with my mouth open (lovely sight, I’m sure). I had to take a few deep breaths before I could proceed.
It wasn’t just the design itself.
It was the light.
Like I had just stepped outside…
Gaudí used the geometrical hyperboloid shapes in his design to enhance the capturing of light into the structure. Together with the use of light-coloured stone and the beautiful stained glass windows, the whole temple is bathing in autumn- and sea-coloured light.
The pillars are based on the shape of tree trunks, making you feel you are standing in an immense abstract forest. Their branches spreading out underneath the ceiling.
In the entire design, the branches are not just decorative. They actually have a structural purpose, distributing the load of the roof better over the columns.
It is amazing how Gaudí managed to translate the traditional Gothic architectural style, which is still recognisable, into a much more stylised and simple form, even enhancing its structural aspects along the way, taking it beyond convention.
Apparently, he was not a fan of making detailed sketches and building plans. Instead, he would make 3D models, some as big as on a 1:2 scale. Another, revolutionary technique he used to visualise the geometrical shapes was by the use of an inverted force model – a model made out of strings and little bags of bird shot.
If you suspend a weight on a string, you are able to create a natural, geometrical curve. By use of this technique, Gaudí made many of his designs.
Unfortunately, when his workshop was destroyed by a fire, most of these models were lost. Nowadays you can see one of his (reconstructed) models, like the one on the right, on display in the museum below the Sagrada Familia.
When visiting the Sagrada Familia, I can highly recommend ordering tickets online in advance (with audioguide if you have an extra few euros to spend). This not only gets you inside within minutes, but also allows you to pick a time slot of your liking. Try late afternoon, when the sun hits the windows and the temple is illuminated in rainbow-coloured light…
It’s mesmerizing, I guarantee you 😉