In previous blog articles, we’ve talked about how artisan trades and technology coexist at the Sagrada Família. And the lift we are preparing for the core of the tower of Jesus Christ will also reflect this contrast between stone, the symbol of tradition, and glass with stainless steel, an example of modernity.
This lift will be at the centre of the spiral staircase inside the tower of Jesus Christ, taking visitors from 85 metres up to 138 metres above the Temple floor. When we began the project to design this element, we planned to house it in an opaque cylinder that, on the outside, would help hold up the staircase and, on the inside, would create an enclosure. This way, the lift would move up and down in an independent shaft, facilitating many aspects associated with safety and installations.
Then, the stone core that contained the staircase and the lift wasn’t very transparent either, and we had only designed circular oculi so visitors could see out at intermittent points as they walked down the staircase that winds around the lift. However, the experience of such a closed space wasn’t very attractive. We had to give visitors a transcendent, memorable experience, fitting of the location: the very core of the tower of Jesus Christ, the main lantern of the great monument that is the Sagrada Família. This required greater transparency and a more constant visual connection with the exterior, and this was the challenge that led the lift project towards the definitive glass and steel structure we’re working on today.
The project continued evolving and, in fact, we began to find the space we were looking for in opening up the upper third of this core to connect it with the exterior structure of the tower. This, on the one hand, transfers part of the load to this inner structure and, on the other, makes this inner space, with the separation in the section between the staircase and the lift, bigger. At the same time, it became clear that we would need to use transparent glass for the lift enclosure. So, visually, the inside of the tower has gained space and a greater feeling of being inside a second layer, a sort of interior inside the interior.
A LIGHT, HANGING STRUCTURE 144 METRES HIGH
The glass enclosure, however, needed some sort of structure to hold up the various parts it is made of. In this case, however, the lift shaft is very tall and does not have a very large base, which means we are looking at a very svelte structure. Taking into account the weight it has to support and the dynamic loads transferred by the lift rail while in motion, the best solution seemed to be a thick metal structure. However, the structure would be highly visible and take away from the desired transparency. That’s why the key was to design a light structure that, like cables, could hang from the top of the tower. So, the structural lines between the glass could be very thin, which would help foster the sense of weightlessness the project was seeking.
The structure for the lift enclosure is, therefore, extremely light and hangs from an upper platform, located 144 metres above the Temple floor, which will be accessible by foot from the last lift stop, located 138 metres up.
TRIPLE CURVED GLASS
Glass and steel structures always use safety glass with several layers so that, if the glass were to break due to impact, it wouldn’t shatter and fall to the bottom, nor would there be an unprotected opening. So, the multiple layers ensure that, if a piece of glass does break, it is held together by the rest of the layers and, even when cracked, they stay in place giving maintenance crews enough time to repair them. So, for the lift in the tower of Jesus Christ, we’ve used large glass pieces with a triple layer of glass that is curved, as is required due to the circular shape of the core. These characteristics make it complicated to put in certain elements, like the emergency door locks and pieces containing rotation axes to open these doors. This, however, has been resolved with metal pieces inlaid in the central layer of the three-layer glass. The solution was the result of an innovative design arising from collaboration with world-renowned engineering companies specialising in lifts and light structures.
The final appearance of this lift, therefore, will be a minimalist modern filigree showing what human ingenuity is capable of designing today, achieving minimal visual impact through tenacious research and shared efforts, a process that is truly worthy of Gaudí’s spirit.