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Not the Sagrada Familia

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Antoni Gaudí is credited with having a school built on the site of La Sagrada Familia.

not the sagrada familia

That’s it bottom right. Nobody’s telling us if this school is there out of true concern or the display of concern in order to boost donations. You may think this cynical of me, but if I were soliciting donations from the pious in order to fund a building program for a cathedral, I’d also want to construct the heavily encrusted Nativity Facade first to give patrons a sense of being there at the beginning of a story in the hope they’ll stick around to help fund the end of the story as well. It’s a funding strategy. I don’t think Gaudí was stupid.

nativity facade

All the same, I don’t think many of his patrons were there to see the inauguration of the Passion (west) facade but this post is not about the Sagrada Familia. This is about the school.

Perhaps the school is there as a planning concession (a.k.a. planning gain) in the same way developers today pay for libraries and parks under Section 106 agreements in the UK. It happens.

Or perhaps it’s there as a creche for co-parenting fathers. In 1910 Spain? This would eliminate the school run and reduce traffic congestion. It did say that Gaudí was ahead of his time. School from sunrise to sunset must have been a bit harsh but still preferable to being a chimney sweep as had been legal in England until 1875.

Or perhaps Gaudí was just being politically correct. Political correctness was to have various meanings over the following seventy years in Spain, but … it did say that Gaudí was ahead of his time.

Me, I think that if Gaudí was that ahead of his time, he’d surely have given a bit more thought to health and safety and not put an elementary school on a construction site. They’re dangerous places, especially for kids. To be fair, there’s not much construction or schooling happening in this next image.


When it was schooly though, it was very very schooly as this publicity shot shows.

in school

Fortunately, this post is only concerned with the integrated structure, materials and construction that, for me, as a Gaudí agnostic, were a bit of a surprise. Here’s the plan.


Here’s the geometry that links shell and its elevations.


And here’s a CAD model, because that’s what people do these days.

structural diagram

The building was relocated to its current position in 1985. This gave people the opportunity to pull it apart and rebuild it. You get the idea.

And here’s some current general views of it, give or take a few weeks.

The double-curvature walls support a double-curvature roof. Openings in the walls are heavily linteled to not upset the flow of forces.

Using inexpensive materials economically and to maximum structural effect was an aspect of Gaudí I’d never known. Using the inherent strength and economy of double curved surfaces for (at least ostensibly) social ends makes Gaudí the predecessor of misfits’ favourites Eladio Dieste and Laurie Baker. It’s such a shame Gaudí went over to The Dark Side. This school shows he could do it when he wanted. It’s worth a look.