La Sagrada Familia

As planned, I set my bags in my attic room, took my sketching kit and walked the five blocks to Antoni Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece.

I had caught my first brief glimpse of La Sagrada Famila through the far window as our Boeing jet was on final approach to Barcelona International Airport and even then, the towering phenomenon stood out from the rest of the cityscape. This was and is an architectural work of genus and wild imagination. A work that underscores the art as well as the structure.

I was again teased with a fleeting peek as my taxi raced through Travessera de Gracia on my way to my Barcelona digs. From my seventh story balcony I could see the unfinished towers and the three cranes looming above. They were in constant motion, underscoring that the work was still in process, 130 years after it’s beginnings.

A sketch of the view form my seventh story attic apartment of the cranes towering over the unfinished La Sagrada Famila.

I headed southwest down Carrer de Sardenya and the massive Passion Facade rose above all else. I had to head further away from the facade, just to take it all in. This was a truly surreal scene, aided by the fact that I had had very little sleep over the previous 48 hours.

A sketch of the towers of the Passion Facade and the every present construction cranes.

I started with a short thumbnail sketch just, in the words of Andy Goldsworthy, trying to “shake hands with the place”. And right now we were not really connecting. So I decided to change perspectives as I walked around the cathedral, past the Barcelona FC side chapel, perhaps the real religion of Catalonia, headed up by it’s Argentinian deity, a short man from Mars by the name of Messi.

It was while placing myself in the Placa de Gaudi that I looked up at the Nativity Facade that I truly started to meet this masterpiece for the first time. I got a sketch in and as I put pen to paper I knew that I would not be able to capture every detail of this incredibly detailed facade and so I used a lot of sketching shorthand to try to render this work on paper.

It was interesting to learn that the Nativity Facade was the only part of the church that was finished in Gaudi’s lifetime before he was tragically run over and killed by a tram in 1926. At the time of his death the church was about 20 percent complete. It is hoped that the cathedral will be completed in 2026, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.

Looks like I shall return to this gem in seven years with pencil, pen and paper!

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