Chile to boast only Gaudi-designed building outside Spain

Vía La Prensa.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet gazes at a model of a chapel that will be built in the city of Rancagua based on a design by iconic Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. EFE

Santiago, Dec 19 (EFE).- By 2017, if all goes according to plan, Chile will be able to boast of having the only building outside of Spain designed by Antoni Gaudi.

The Our Lady of the Angels chapel, based on a sketch the Catalan architect gave a Chilean friar in 1922, will rise in the center of Rancagua, a city 85 kilometers (53 miles) south of Santiago.

"The Gaudi Cultural and Spiritual Center will be one of the major attractions in the region, a space to reflect on humankind and nature, designed by one of the world's most recognized architects," President Michelle Bachelet said at the Rancagua Regional Museum.

The project unveiled Thursday includes a 30-meter (98-feet) tall chapel, an underground cultural space and two large plazas in Parque Cataluña, a 14-hectare (35-acre) expanse.

Gaudi originally intended the chapel in the sketch to be part of his masterwork, the Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona, but in 1922 he gave the design to Chilean friar Angelico Aranda, who pledged to "pay with prayers."

The friar, who loved architecture and specialized in sacred painting, wrote Gaudi asking him for "some plans as only he knows how to create" for a chapel in Rancagua.

Surprisingly, Aranda's request matched exactly a chapel Gaudi had planned for the rear side of the apse at the Sagrada Familia.

Gaudi ceded to Aranda the sketches, emphasizing that the construction of a chapel in Chile "would demonstrate the spiritual fraternity between Spain and America."

The architect now in charge of the project, Christian Matzner, said Gaudi designed his chapel in 1915, taking cues from a work by Spaniard Luis Bonifacio inside Girona Cathedral.

The cornerstone for the Rancagua chapel is expected to be laid during the second half of 2015 and work on the $7.4 million project will last about two years.

As a tribute to Gaudi's intention to link Spain and America, the chapel will be oriented on the Barcelona-Rancagua axis and it will be ornamented with 20 stone oculi carved in the Mediterranean city.

The main tower is to be covered with Chilean lapis lazuli and topped by a copper cross.

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