Finland to house sub-zero Sagrada Familia

A 40-metre model of Gaudí's emblematic Sagrada Familia will be built out of ice in Finland this winter. The Local talks to the mastermind behind this ambitious project.

Finland to house sub-zero Sagrada Familia
The ice basilica may lack the detail of Barcelona's unfinished Sagrada Familia but it will still be a sight to behold. Photo: Eindhoven University of Technology

“Our ice basilica will be finished before the real one in Barcelona, that’s for sure” says Arno Pronk, a leading Dutch architect leading the icy chef d’oeuvre building plans alongside two Eindhoven University students.

In late December, they will head to the small Finnish town of Juuka and kick-start the construction of their own sub-zero Sagrada Familia, hoping to having it completed within just five weeks.

“We need it to be -8 degrees C to be able to build,” Pronk tells The Local while describing how their building of the world’s biggest ice dome (30 metre diameter) last year was hindered by unusually mild winter temperatures.

“We use inflatables, between them we tie ropes and membrane structures and then we spray snow and pykrete all over, the second being a combination of water and sawdust that makes the structure even stronger than ice.”

Pronk and the two students, Teun Verberne and Jordy Kern, are looking to showcase yet again how pykrete can be an excellent and cheap building material for temporary structures ranging from ice hotels to seasonal agricultural storage.

“Of course, we’d also love the ice basilica to become a tourism attraction for Finland,” Pronk adds.

“We’ll need the help of 50 hands-on volunteers to make it all possible, everybody is welcome.”

So if you’ve grown tired of waiting to see Antoni Gaudi’s magnus opus finally completed and don’t mind putting up with colder temperatures than those of Barcelona, here’s the solution.

The following video shows how Pronk and his colleagues built the world’s biggest ice dome (30 metre diameter) last year:

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Pandemic to delay completion date for Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia

The long-awaited completion of Barcelona's Sagrada Familia will no longer happen in 2026 because the coronavirus epidemic has curtailed its construction and frustrated funding, basilica officials admitted Wednesday.

Pandemic to delay completion date for Barcelona's Sagrada Familia
Photo: AFP

“The effects of the pandemic have forced us to rethink our planned timeline. This affects the end date we had planned for 2026,” said Esteve Camps who heads the Sagrada Familia's construction board.   

One of Spain's top tourist attractions, the towering architectural masterpiece has been under construction for nearly 140 years but the vast project only received a building permit last year.

When finished, the ornate cathedral which was by modernist Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, will have 18 towers with its highest steeple reaching 172 metres (564 feet) into the air.

It was to have been completed in 2026 — on the 100th anniversary of the death of Gaudi, who was run over by a tram.   

“We are not able to propose any new date” for completing the building work which began in 1882, but “it will be impossible (to finish) in 2026”, he said.    

Construction works came to an abrupt halt in March when the Spanish government ordered a national lockdown to slow the spread of the virus, and will only resume “in the coming weeks”, he said.

Even then, the works will resume at a slower pace given the basilica's lack of funds as the cost of its construction is financed by donations from the faithful and the takings from ticket sales to tourists, both of which have plummeted during the crisis.   

For now, they only have funds to finish building a huge tower dedicated to the Virgin Mary which will be second highest of the 18 towers that will grace the finished monument.