Discover the Marvels of Gaudí and the Sagrada Família at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo!

The Sagrada Família in Barcelona might be the most famous of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí’s works. At the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (MOMAT), more than 100 drawings, photographs, and models are on display, allowing visitors to delve into Gaudí’s unique architectural ideas and the sources of his originality. It’s finally on track for completion, and the “Gaudí and Sagrada Família Exhibition” is currently being held. As the Editor-in-Chief, Marei, I will take you through the highlights of this fascinating exhibition!

The World of Gaudí in “Four Chapters”

The exhibition space is divided into “four chapters.” The concept of Chapter 1, “Gaudí and His Time,” and Chapter 2, “The Sources of Gaudí’s Originality,” revolves around “picking Gaudí’s brain!” Visitors can learn about the influences that shaped young Gaudí and how they were later integrated into the Sagrada Família.

Installation view of Chapter 1. The introductory explanations for each chapter are written in English and Japanese, and the titles of the works are written in Chinese and Korean, in addition to English and Japanese.
Cross-section sketch created by Gaudí for the Architect Qualification Examination | Paranymph (University auditorium: Cross section, Final project for the Degree in Architecture)/ Facsimile (Original: 1877)/ Antoni Gaudí/ Arxiu EtsaB · Càtedra Gaudí Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (on loan to Museu del Disseny de Barcelona

Chapter 1 also provides insight into the historical background in which Gaudí was active. After becoming an architect, Gaudí was immediately commissioned to design a showcase for the Paris Universal Exposition in 1889. The actual sketches he drew on the back of business cards are on display.

Sketch of the design for a display case for the Comellas glove shop, intended for the Universal Exhibition in Paris/1878/ Antoni Gaudí/ MUSEUS DE REUS 

The Source of Gaudí’s Originality

Gaudí drew inspiration from “orientalism in architecture,” “life forms,” the “laws of balance” in nature, and geometry. What struck me the most was Gaudí’s relentless pursuit of his ideal forms through numerous experiments.

Installation view of Chapter 2 | It’s clear that Gaudí continued to study various forms.
Exhibition of organically shaped chairs designed by Gaudí

I was particularly impressed by the exhibition showcasing Gaudí’s trademark parabolic arches. Gaudí placed great emphasis on the arch, as it was believed that balance could be achieved through the “law of balance” dating back to ancient times. In his experiments, he studied arches formed by hanging strings and chains in search of the ideal arch that could harmonize with the structure.

When I observed the shapes created by the hanging threads reflected in the mirror, I was surprised to see beautiful arches reminiscent of those used in Gaudí’s architecture. | Upside down force model of the Güell Colony Church (detail)/1984-85 and Upside down force model of the Güell Colony Church/1:50/1984-85/ both: Bunri University of Hospitality

By examining the large model in Chapter 2, visitors can witness firsthand how Gaudí’s cherished parabolic arches were incorporated into his architectural designs. Although the “New York Hotel” designed by Gaudí never materialized, it seems that elements of his vision are concealed within the Sagrada Família cathedral.

The New York skyscraper commissioned by Gaudí. This sketch was later drawn by his apprentice. The building was intended to reach a height of 360m! | Hotel Attraction preliminary project/ 1952/ Joan Matamala/ Arxiu EtsaB · Càtedra Gaudí Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (on loan to Museu del Disseny de Barcelona
Installation view of Chapter 2 and the model of the planned skyscraper in New York. It would be a sight to behold if the project had been completed! | Model of Hotel Attraction design in New York (Based on the drawing by Joan Matamala/1985|MAde by the Plaster’s Association in Gunma Prefecture, Japan/ Izu Chohachi Art Museum

The Sagrada Família Nearing Completion!

Spacious exhibition area in Chapter 3

Gaudí was not the initial architect of the Sagrada Família; he was appointed in 1883 as the second architect. The original cathedral project was modest, but under Gaudí’s influence, it grew into an extensive undertaking. At one point, completion was estimated to require 300 years. Gaudí embarked on a “never-ending design journey,” continually creating and modifying countless models for the Sagrada Família until he died in 1926.

Installation view of Chapter 3 | It is said that Gaudí used plaster to make these realistic sculpture. Models were residents of Barcelona. 

The museum dedicates its largest exhibition space to revealing the secrets of the construction and design of the Sagrada Família cathedral. The highlight of Chapter 3 is “Model of the naves of the Sagrada Família (scale 1/25)”. By closely examining the model, visitors can appreciate the intricate details of the small figurines.

Model of the naves of the Sagrada Família/ 2001-02/ Production: Taller de modelistes de la Sagrada Família

Chapter 3 also presents Gaudí’s distinct pillars, which are particularly interesting, and the multiple displayed models are truly impressive. The abundance of models is necessary to understand Gaudí’s vision and ensure the completion of the project even after his passing. We must acknowledge and applaud all the craftsmen involved in this challenging endeavor, especially in recreating the crucifix that adorns the tallest tower of the cathedral using a partially surviving male mold!

Exhibition showcasing Gaudí’s columns
Front: Mould of a two-armed cross of the Sagrada Família/ c.1920-26/ Antoni Gaudí/ La Junta Constructora del Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família

In Chapter 4 of the “Gaudí and Sagrada Família Exhibition,” themed “Gaudí’s heredity,” visitors can enjoy a book exhibition, an interview video featuring a Japanese architect, and a stunning drone video of the current Sagrada Família cathedral produced by NHK.
The Gaudí exhibition shop is also a delightful experience, offering various items that truly capture his passion. So, as you follow Gaudí’s trajectory that has persisted for over 100 years at the “Gaudí and Sagrada Família Exhibition,” immerse yourself in his passion!

In addition to the official pictorial record, the exclusive shop offers a wide range of adorable merchandise!

Gaudí and the Sagrada Família

The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo Exhibition HP:
Gaudi Exhibition Official Website:
Date: June 13th (Tuesday) to September 10th (Sunday), 2023
For the protection of the work, some exhibits will be changed during the exhibition period.
Venue: The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo 1F Special Exhibition Gallery
Opening hours: 10:00-17:00 (Until 20:00 on Fridays and Saturdays) *Last admission 30 minutes before closing
Closed days: Mondays (except July 17) and July 18

The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
3-1 Kitanomaru Park, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Google Maps:
Nearest stations: Takebashi station, Kudanshita station, Jimbocho station