Sagrada Familia and Building with Purpose

Sagrada Familia is revolutionary.

But not only in the way you might think. The first reason it impressed me has nothing to do with Gaudi or the architecture, although it IS very impressive. What impressed me is that the people running the show haven’t been stagnant. They have been impossibly slow in actually building it BUT they have kept up with the times. A building that was designed nearly 150 years ago is completely modern in its outfitting:

  • modern glass,
  • metal railings,
  • new construction,

It goes on. They are not afraid of the times; rather, they’ve adapted to them to make the “temple”, as it’s called, even better. This strikes me as enormously different from other cathedrals currently under construction. It seems that usually instead of moving forward they are clinging to the past. Nothing ever comes of staying the same.

So first reason it’s impressive:

1. The builders are embracing the future

But I have two more!

2. The builders have done an excellent job of making the cathedral seem complete even though it is not.

Even though the church is at least 20 years from completion, it’s not obvious when you walk through. The builders have been taking great care to make an visitor’s experience complete:

  • Windows where the stain glass is not yet complete are filled with regular glass.
  • Where there will be a staircase in the complete version there is a concrete ramp that’s seems like it is supposed to be there until you see the plans.
  • All the construction equipment, with the exception of the cranes, is so well hidden that I didn’t even notice it until I was leaving and looking for it.

Most importantly:

3. Seems to be the first top down rethink of what a church should be.

Gaudi didn’t rest on tradition. He re-thought what a church is and how it should be constructed. He started with his goal ( the perfect church ) and worked backwards from it:

  • The church is located in the center of Barcelona, equal distances from the mountains and the sea. Reason: To symbolize the centrality of the church
  • The windows are designed to let in enough light but not too much. Reason: To create the perfect environment for reflection.
  • The height of the main tower and cross is not to be more than 175 meters, the eight of the nearby montjuic. “Man’s creations should not be taller than God’s” – Gaudi

He began with the end in mind. He, much like Steve Jobs in our age, thought about how every single detail would affect the experience of a visitor.

Although I may not agree with the institution of religion and I may have a different perspective on the meaning of life, what is and has been happening at Sagrada Familia is truly impressive. If I could bankroll the entire operation, I would.

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