The Analects of Gaudí: returning to the source

[Longer project description]

The interior of Spain’s Sagrada Família Basilica was completed in 2010 to Antoni Gaudí’s design, 84 years after the architect’s death in 1926.  Gaudí did not leave fully resolved models nor instructions for his successors to realise the full vision of the Sagrada Família Basilica, the principal façade of which is still being built.

Although he spoke of his work and taught prodigiously in his final years, Gaudí never wrote about his architectural theories.

The basilica is expected to be finally completed in 2026, and this lack of finalised and formalised information about Gaudí’s motivation, intellectual position, emotional engagement, or written histories remain an exceptional challenge for those working to complete his magnum opus.

Interpretation of Gaudí’s incomplete design for the Glory Façade presents a fascinating and contentious challenge for all involved, requiring critical engagement with and insight into Gaudí’s thinking, to comprehend his intentions for the Sagrada Família.

The Analects of Gaudí Project

The Analects of Gaudí Discovery project will undertake crucial archival research of the fragments of Gaudí’s writing (the analects) along with intense engagement with the architects who have guided building the basilica over the last 40 years.

The fundamental aim of the research is gain insights into Gaudí’s thinking and intentions from his few remaining models, the publications and unpublished archival material recorded by assistants, and the key members of the current design team.

Pursuing the project at this time will also ensure that researchers can engage with the project team while it’s still together, including the former Architect Director and Coordinator, Sr Jordi Bonet i Armengol.  At 90 years of age, Sr Bonet has been Architect Emeritus for the project and has agreed to contribute to the research. Through his late father, Jordi Bonet I Gari who was one of Gaudí’s disciples, he is the only living connection to Gaudí.

This project represents the last chance to investigate and fully record the crucially missing dimensions of Gaudí’s theoretical position and unique way of working within this living laboratory, before it closes after 144 years of operation.

Approach to research

The research will be approached via two distinct models:

  • Classical scholarship
  • Practice-based design research.

The latter will specifically reflect on CI Burry’s and PI Faulí’s long years of engagement with the Sagrada Família completion project.

This research project is so complex that a four-year research scale is necessary to delve into Gaudí’s life to turn theory into practical application for real world practice, as well as enriching scholarship through innovation.

Subprojects

  • Subproject 1: The critical assembly and interpretation of The Analects of Gaudí

The researchers will return to the source, exploring the writings he left as well as the sayings recorded by his protégées and associates. This subproject will result in an English translation of a comprehensive and authoritative collection of his texts with critical commentary.

  • Subproject 2: Establishing authority and authorship of Gaudí’s Gloria Façade.

This research will lead to two major exhibitions documenting how the last 50+ years of experience and learning address the needs for a fuller understanding of Gaudí’s intentions a century after his death.

 Outcomes

The principal aim of the Analects of Gaudí project is to understand more deeply the research opportunities and innovation-led architectural practice via this collaboration with the Sagrada Família design team.

Three secondary outcomes will result from exploring Gaudí’s unique architectural practice and revealing how the Basilica is being developed in the contemporary architectural environment.

  1. With computer coding and visualisation now a routine element of architecture, the project will reposition the architect’s role within transdisciplinary collaboration and the evolving digital design team
  2. Innovation in architectural practice and advanced delivery of building projects will result from the design office’s leadership in digital fabrication, deployment of lightweight and environmentally responsive construction materials, and the development of new and vital architectural science.
  3. Architectural projects are freshly seen as complex systems (rather than traditional ‘object-oriented’ productions), which will influence building information modelling (BIM) and how future architectural teams are composed.

Further outcomes

The building of the Basilica has attracted heated intellectual, political, cultural, and populist debate. This project will bring academic rigour and a new, holistic overview of these arguments, by bringing diverse sources to the commentary on Gaudí’s work and innovative thought to the future practices of design.

The books, symposium and exhibitions that will communicate the project’s results will engage the scholarly community.

Another outcome will be the impact on Australian and global architectural practices that emerge from the innovative skills and tools that have been incubated during the long-term completion of the Sagrada Família Basilica.

Communication of Results

The results of the project will be communicated through exhibitions, symposium and books, as well as journal papers and book chapters.

Exhibitions:

  • Deep Practice’ will reveal Gaudí’s unique way of working through images garnered from the extensive archive.
  • Extended Practice’, will reveal the extent to which the Sagrada Família Basilica is a major site for cutting-edge investigation into advanced digital design and fabrication centred in a project of considerable historical interest. This exhibition will also promote new practice paradigms.

A Melbourne-based Symposium:

  • The first part of the invitational symposium will draw on Gaudí’s approach to collaboration
  • The second part of the symposium will draw from the changing nature of design communication.

Books

  • The Analects of Gaudí. The collection of Gaudí’s work, translated into English, will emerge as a book with extensive commentary on the analects. The two essays forming the core of the book will be ‘Gaudí in his time in Barcelona’ by PI Dr Jordi Faulí, native Catalan and Architect Director and Coordinator to the Sagrada Família, and Gaudí and the wider world external to Barcelona in his time’ by CI Burry.
  • Situating Gaudí in Our Time. This book will be a collaboration with all the senior architects who have been responsible for the design of the major elements of the building for which there was relatively little documentary ev idence of Gaudí’s precise intentions.

Benefits

Locating this research in Australia maintains our global credibility in the field of complex architecture at a deep level of academic inquiry, and at the level of innovation in design and technology. Australian architectural research will also be the first to access and benefit from its many anticipated spin-offs. Other national benefits include:

  1. a unique opportunity to encourage historical and practice-based design research in Australia
  2. integrating postgraduate programmes in the core research
  3. broadening the national debate on cultural policy and design standards across Australia
  4. the promotion of good design throughout Australia through frequent media coverage
  5. promoting Australian architectural research strengths throughout the world
  6. enhanced Australian architectural practice and urban design
  7. attracting young talent to Australia through our enhanced reputation in this field
  8. increasing Australia’s architectural export services
  9. improved opportunities to collaborate in international research.

Personnel

Chief Investigator: Professor Mark Burry (0.2) will have overall carriage of the project. CI Burry began working on the Sagrada Família as Senior Architect in 1979 and has engaged with the site office for 37 years. He is the only individual who has interpreted Gaudí’s design for the Sagrada Família Basilica using both analogue and digital design approaches. This proposed project builds on his Federation Fellowship project ‘Complex Architecture and Convergent Design’ (FF0669133).

CI Burry will be actively involved in the day-to-day design documentation of the Glory Façade, extracting new knowledge as it is generated in the field. He will also co-author the ‘Analects of Gaudí’ book with PI Faulí.

Partner Investigator Dr Jordi Faulí (0.1) has worked on the Sagrada Família for 26 years. He will coordinate the research based at the Basilica’s extensive archive, and assist CI Burry to interpret some of the more ambiguous of Gaudí’s analects. He will coordinate the relevant site visits and help arrange access to some of the more obscure archives. He will co-author ‘Analects of Gaudí’ with CI Burry, and coordinate senior colleague’s chapters for the proposed ‘Situating Gaudí in Our Time’ book.

Research Fellow 1 (0.6 Years 1-3) will assist CI Burry and PI Faulí with the primary research for Subprojects 1 and 2, taking charge of preparing material for dissemination especially the first exhibition. They will also lead the translation of Subprojects 1 and 2 outcomes for assimilation by the two PhD candidates as directed research topics for the PhDs to draw upon. [Years 1-3]

Research Fellow 2 (0.6 Years 3-4) will assist CI Burry and PI Faulí with primary research for Subproject 2, prepare material for dissemination especially the second exhibition, to be hosted in Melbourne towards the end of Year 4. They will also assist with PhD supervision and lead the translation of Subproject 2 outcomes.

PhD candidates aligned to the project will explore ‘design as complex system thinking’ using the lessons drawn from the Sagrada Família site-based research as a model for attuning to more of the designer’s time being taken-up designing the design (meta design).

Management of Data

There is no data generation anticipated for this project. However, ethics approval will be sought for the incorporation of structured interviews with design researchers and practitioners as key components to the project. (This is not anticipated as being a significant viability challenge).

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