CHURCH OF THE GÜELL COLONY (1908 - 1917)



CRITICAL COMMENTARY

This is a building for worship, commissioned by Eusebi Güell for the use of the workers of his textile colony, located in Santa Coloma de Cervelló, about 20 kilometers northwest of Barcelona.

Gaudí began the preparatory studies in 1898, although construction wasn’t begun until 1908; this was because he used a relatively laborious and complex system of calculation for the project: it is called the stereofunicular model. This consisted of making a floor plan of the future building, hanging it upside-down from the ceiling, and hanging wires from both ends to form a curve, from which weights proportional to those that would have to be supported by the arch once it was built were hung. The inverted image of this structure showed the height of the building projected, allowing one to see the church’s final structure without having to draw it.

The complexity of the project slowed down the work on the temple considerably, and it was stopped when Güell’s businesses went bankrupt. Although only the portico of the entry, the crypt, the stairs leading to the church, and the foundations of one of the bell towers were built, the importance of its architectural resolution has led it to be considered one of the architect’s most emblematic works.
The portico is made up of a forest of inclined columns of basalt stone and brick, which maintain a direct dialogue with the surrounding landscape, made up basically of pines. The columns support polygonal arches, the directrices of which make up a series of convex vaults with hyperbolic paraboloids that Gaudí decorated with ceramics in symbolic shapes. From the portico one can enter the crypt, with a polygonal, star-shaped floor plan and pillars of brick and basalt. Originally, the benches of the church, several stained-glass windows with suggestive color schemes, and the main altar, designed by Josep Maria Jujol, were remarkable, but in 1936 the crypt was assaulted and destroyed. The majority of the benches (reproduced in 1960), all of the stained-glass windows (restored in 1980), and the main altar (currently the one built by the American Peter Harden, in 1965, can be seen) were all lost.

The colony was sold in 1943 by Güell’s heirs to the Bertrand i Serra family, which stopped producing textiles in 1973 and sold it, in 1984, to the Consorci de la Colònia Güell, made up of the University of Barcelona, the Diputació de Barcelona, and the Consell Comarcal del Baix Llobregat (the County Council of Baix Llobregat), the current preservers of Gaudí’s legacy.

Cultural Item of National Interest since 1969.

     
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