After Assumption Day, we begin to see we’ve left the summer solstice behind: the days are getting shorter and the nights longer, until they even out when we reach the autumn equinox at the end of September. To celebrate this feast day, we wanted to reveal some details of the inside of the tower of the Virgin Mary, which actually take into account this daily and yearly cycle of light, varying from east to west.
Unlike the inside of the tower of Jesus Christ, where the vertical core of the stairs and lift plays a very important role, in the centre of the tower of the Virgin Mary a huge skylight emerges to draw the light in and exalt and illuminate the presbytery. For some years now, this skylight has been part of the visible profile of the works from a distance and recognisable for its hyperboloid shape, like a huge smokestack at a power plant. Now, however, it has been encased by the tower around it.
Seen from the inside of the Temple, the skylight is the highest point of the vaults in all the Temple and where the Eternal Father is represented, non-figuratively, with a triangle of golden Venetian glass that stands out against the tiles and the blue trencadís mosaic.
Seen from inside the tower, the skylight will stand out as something pure protected inside the tower, deep within Mary. This huge emerging structure is 15 metres tall and anyone who uses the stairs that will surround it will be impressed when looking up: as the tower is taller than the skylight and there is no power plant blocking it, they will have the sensation of being inside a protective dome or shell.
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE TOWER GEOMETRY
This huge hyperboloid will be covered in white, the colour of purity, and, to do so, the geometry of the surface has been used so that the white tiles are laid along to families of lines that generate the hyperboloid as if they were the fibres woven together to create a wicker basket. The main lines are marked with whole, shiny white tiles, while the secondary lines have broken tiles, as if passing under the primary ones, in matte white. Between the two, there are spaces that will be filled with trencadís mosaic in various tones of white.
In addition to the central structure of this huge skylight, the other thing that shapes the inner space of the tower of the Virgin Mary is the inside of the tensioned-stone panels that make it up. Each level has fourteen panels and, to cover the seams between them, there are 14 rows of large ceramic rhombuses, also in white. Just as the blue granite arrises on the outside hide the main steel structure, these white rhombuses will cover the structural lines inside.
10 TONES OF WHITE FOR THE RHOMBUSES
Aware that we would have to learn from the trencadís mosaics at Park Güell for the white trencadís mosaic in the tower of the Virgin Mary, we discovered that Gaudí had used up to nineteen different tones of white for the columns and vaults in the space under the large square at the park. This way, he broke up the monotony of the excessively flat colour. Using this technique, we initially thought of making the fourteen arrises of rhombuses in fourteen different tones of white, moving towards each of the colours of the rainbow, from blue to red, to accentuate the effect of the light. Combining shiny and matte elements, and pure white with other off-white hues, we came up with thirty different whites, which seems to be the most that can be differentiated by an Eskimo, experts in surviving in a world of whites. However, we saw that we were forcing the perceptive abilities of most observers and simplified the idea, using just two tones of pure white, shiny and matte, and six additional whites, tinted slightly with blue, purple, red, orange, yellow and green, with a shiny and matte version of the blue and red hued whites. This left us with one third of the initial selection of whites.
So, the rhombuses are broken down into triangular tiles and each of them has a percentage of each white so that, gradually, the full circle on each level covers the whole colour range. This aims to accentuate the blues and greens on the surfaces that get the cool light of the morning and the oranges and reds on those with the warm afternoon light.
So, the inside of the tower of the Virgin Mary will be predominantly white, the symbol of purity, and the unique, grandiose space will be bathed in light evolving naturally throughout the day and the year, reinforced by a very subtle selection of colours that aims to ensure the space is tinged with a real sensation of holiness.