Students from the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) have built an ice replica of Gaudi's famous Sagrada Familia basilica. Fittingly, like the actual Barcelona landmark, the simplified model was incomplete by the time it was due to open. The aim of the project was to investigate the use of ice as a building material.

Although understandably not commonplace, ice can and is used as a building material, the annually-built Icehotel in Sweden being a prime example. Whereas the Icehotel uses plain river ice and, in places, a mixture of snow and ice, the Sagrada Familia in Ice project uses ice reinforced with wooden fibers. This mixture, known as "pykrete," is said to be three times stronger than plain ice.

Plans to build the Sagrada Familia in Ice in Juuka, Finland, were announced last year. Construction started on Dec. 28 and was expected to be completed in time for the opening on Jan. 24. According to TU/e, however, setbacks in the weather and the building work resulted in the highest ice dome being incomplete by that point.

The project website claims that, at 30 m (98 ft), it would be the highest ice dome in the world. Nonetheless, the structure's other completed towers reach up to 21 m (69 ft) high, which is over twice the height of the ice dome that was built last year and that inspired the project.

The Sagrada Familia in Ice is a 1:5 scale version of the original church. The design for it consisted of the big tower that ultimately was not completed, the nave, with a height of 12 m (39 ft), two 21 m (69 ft) towers and two 18 m (58 ft) towers.

In order to build the structure, anchors were first drilled into the ground to which ropes could be attached. The ropes and inflatable molds were then laid out in the required positions. The molds were inflated and the supporting ropes attached, helping to keep them in place.

A foundation of snow and water was applied to the molds and then repeated alternate layers of water with wood fibers and snow were sprayed on to them. The lower parts of the towers were created using pykrete in this way, while the top sections were created using plain ice. The process was deemed to be complete once the structures had reached the required thickness.

A rope structure was then suspended between the main tower and the four smaller towers from which the nave would be created. Ropes hanging down were then sprayed with water to create the nave's ice columns and water was also sprayed over its textile covering in order to form a roof made of ice. Textile molds were also used in this way to create the entrance to the structure. The final addition was to be a cross atop the the tall tower.

A team of 80 volunteers worked around the clock to create the Sagrada Familia in Ice. The grand opening took place on Jan. 25 and a small team is working to complete the final tower.

The video below shows the project from start to finish.

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