The star of the Sagrada Família had a twin, the work of a Gaudí disciple in 1929

In Russia there are many buildings crowned with a star of five points that represent the five social groups that would lead the country to communism. We can see them in the Kremlin, in the State University, in a building of wealthy houses of the Kudrinskaya square or in the old Hotel Lenigrádskaia. Nothing has to do with the star of the Holy Family with the former USSR or the struggle of the proletariat, but there is a building that could serve as inspiration or that can help to understand a little better the element that has just been released in the Eixample. And you don’t have to go too far, just go to Montjuïc, although you do have to travel back in time to Universal Exhibition of 1929, when one of the disciples of Antoni Gaudí, The architect Lluís Bonet i Garí, designed a pavilion, that of the Life Bank of Spain, whose icing was a star practically identical to the one illuminated in the basilica last Wednesday.

The similarity is disturbing and finding it is a merit that must be attributed to the journalist David Martínez, blog author Stories of Barcelona. The pavilion was installed next to the Palau Nacional, was circular in plan but its vertical appearance was assimilated to that of a tropical palm tree. It was part of the endless list of private businesses (banking, tobacco, electricity, automotive, construction, food …) that competed with their buildings to win the favor of the public. The star of the proposal of the Life Bank of Spain attracted powerfully attention, also at night, when the entire property, and also the star, were illuminated, other equivalence with what happened this week in Gaudí’s temple. As is the tower or the vaults that in the old building, in the same way that it happens with the dome of Mary of the Sagrada Família, culminated with that indeterminate pointed star.

Forecast route

The interior was already something else. Decorated to receive potential bank clients, it contained meeting rooms and stands with information about its products. The magazine ‘The Ibero-American Illustration’ published in 1929 a review on the pavilion. He was talking about “leaves and flowers“and a dome” topped by a star that, like the one that guided the Wizards of the East, it seems to guide the walkers towards the routes of the foresight, as are the insurance ones. “Maria’s star, obviously, has other pretensions.

If the star was Bonet’s idea or a commission from the client, it is one of the unknowns to solve. What has no mystery is the connection between the architect and the insurance company: his uncle, Josep Garí, was one of the main executives of the firm. That is why the thing did not stop there, since he also took charge of the bank’s corporate buildings in different Spanish cities, including Barcelona, ​​where he projected what is now the Generali building, on the corner of Mar-Llobregat de Gran Via with Passeig de Gràcia, where insurance is no longer dispensed, but clothing of a well-known multinational. Bonet met Gaudí at the age of 25 and began to regularly visit the works of the Sagrada Família, becoming a disciple of the master. In 1966, in fact, after a career marked by the influence of the architect de la Pedrera, he took over the direction of temple works. Such was the commitment of the family, that his son, Jordi Bonet, he held the same position years later.

The glazier

Martínez explains that he arrived at the pavilion by chance, while preparing an article about the 1929 Exhibition. He found the photo the day before the premiere of the Sagrada Família star. The design of the ornamental piece of the Maria tower has been carried out by the team that leads Jordi Faulí, Chief architect of the temple works. One of the most important pieces, the crystals, were made in Mataró and were left in the hands and oven of the glazier David Gibernau, which was commissioned in mid-2017. Showing him the nearly 100-year-old pavilion, he agrees on the similarity, though he is quick to point out that the 20th-century version “has more spikes.” “But yes, they are really very similar, even the finishes of the two towers are very similar. ”

123 pieces came out, a figure that is five faces on 12 points. There would be 120, but three of them were cut to include an access door to the interior machinery that allows, from the base, to illuminate the entire structure. Finished Very happy with the result, and only when he has realized the international uproar he has been aware of the value and relevance of a job for which he charged, he jokes, “3% of the star’s final budget”, which was 1.5 million euros.

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Maria’s star may have had another source of inspiration much closer: the Belen star located on the facade of the Nativity, made of stone, with many more points, but very similar to stainless steel and glass. In any case, a new element of debate after almost 140 years of continuation, or interpretation, depending on who you ask, of Gaudí’s work.

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