Lack of photos a letdown

Thousands come to see Gaudi's unfinished Sagrada Familia in Barcelona each year. Photo: Getty Images
Thousands come to see Gaudi's unfinished Sagrada Familia in Barcelona each year. Photo: Getty Images

A new book on Gaudi's masterwork the Sagrada Familia promised much, but disappoints.

THE SAGRADA FAMILA
Gijs van Hensbergen
Bloomsbury

By GILLIAN VINE

Expected to be completed in 2016 after a gestation of almost 150 years, Barcelona's Sagrada Famila is architect Antoni Gaudi's masterpiece.

Gaudi (1852-1926) was a Catalonian whose distinctive style, Catalan Modernism, integrated less usual elements such as ceramics and wrought iron into its designs.

His principal works are in Barcelona, where the foundation stone of the basilica - not a cathedral as it is often mistakenly called - was laid in 1882.

In The Sagrada Famila, subtitled Gaudd's Heaven on Earth, Dutch art historian Gijs van Hensbergen examines the church, its magical qualities and eccentricity.

The Sagrada Famila is not to everyone's taste. Picasso, says van Hensbergen, "despised Gaudi's buildings and all that he stood for'' but even its detractors admit to fascination.

That fascination sees the incomplete building attracting 4 million paying visitors a year, who pay $NZ40-$48 to tour the interior. In addition, many times that number who gawp from outside.

Although it traces the architect's life, The Sagrada Famila is essentially a sequel to van Hensbergen's 2001 biography of Gaudd, concentrating - as the title indicates - on his most famous work.

Unfortunately, the book has a major flaw. The author assumes the reader to have some familiarity with the Sagrada Famila and for those who do not, or have only a hazy recollection of the ceramic-tiled wonders of Barcelona, the lack of photographs is a serious omission.

Their absence pulls a promising book down from seriously good to rather disappointing.

- Gillian Vine is a Dunedin writer

 

 

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