January 23, 2015 / 1:32 AM / 4 years ago

First Gaudi project outside Spain to be built in Chile

SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) - Over 90 years after Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi mailed a Chilean friar two sketches for the design of a chapel, the small city of Rancagua, Chile is getting ready to build the late creator’s only project outside of his native Spain.

The chapel was initially planned as part of Gaudi’s famed Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona, but was never built.

“We have to adapt the project’s architecture, and its symbolism, so that the project fits within the context of the 21st century,” Christian Matzner, the lead architect for the chapel and adjoining cultural center, told Reuters.

The building would, however, accurately echo Gaudi’s preoccupation with geometry and nature, he said.

The cross atop the 30-meter tall, 10-meter-by-10-meter wide chapel will be adorned with copper, Chile’s most abundant mineral resource and its top export. The lining of the cupola will feature the nation’s famed deep-blue gemstone lapis lazuli. The chapel will also be built to withstand the frequent and occasionally strong earthquakes that rock the Andean country.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has promised $7.4 million in funding for the project, while another $1 million will be raised via donations.

Construction is set to begin in the second half of 2015 and should be completed in four years, said Morin Contreras, regional supervisor for Rancagua, an agricultural and mining town located some 90km south of Chile’s capital Santiago.

Consumed at the time by the building of his Sagrada Familia masterpiece, Gaudi received a letter from Franciscan friar Angelico Aranda in 1922 asking for the design of a Chilean chapel in exchange for “a payment of prayers.”

Gaudi replied that he had a chapel already planned at Sagrada Familia, and told the friar, “so go ahead and build it yourself in America before me in Barcelona,” said Beatriz Valenzuela, executive secretary of Corporacion Gaudi de Triana, an organization set up in 1996 to build the chapel.

In Gaudi’s letter to Aranda, he said construction of the chapel “would be a test of spiritual fraternity between Spain and America.”

Long after he started on the Sagrada Familia - which is still under construction after 130 years - Gaudi’s gift to “America” looks set to become a reality.

Additional reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Anthony Esposito; editing by Andrew Hay

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