Finland Will Feature Barcelona's Sagrada Familia Basilica Made From Ice and Saw Dust

Posted by Staff Reporter on Jun 07, 2014 08:11 AM EDT
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An impression of the model of Barcelona's Sagrada Familia basilica from pykrete.more big
An impression of the model of Barcelona's Sagrada Familia basilica from pykrete. (Photo : PR)

A team of over 50 Eindhoven University of Technology faculty and students will attempt to recreate Barcelona's Sagrada Familia basilica using a unique building material called pykrete.

Embarking on such a complex challenge is not new for the Dutch students. Last winter, the team created a world record by building the largest ice-dome ever.

The construction of the 40-meter (131-ft)-high model will begin late December in northern Finland. The team plans to complete the task in just three weeks, aiming to achieve yet another feat.

"We could have just decided to build another, even larger, dome", TU/e lecturer and project leader Arno Pronk said in a statement. "But in building terms the Sagrada Familia is a much bigger challenge."

Pykrete, ice reinforced with wood fibers, has the same resistance as brick walls to bullets and just one-inch column is sufficient to support a car.

"You can use it to build thin-walled temporary structures that are safe and low-cost" said Pronk. "Our technique enables environment-friendly applications such as seasonal storage in agriculture, the offshore industry and expeditions, as well as for recreational facilities like ice hotels."

The construction process of the model church will involve spraying a thin layer of snow over large, inflated molds followed by another layer of water containing 10 percent sawdust. That water/sawdust mix will be absorbed into the snow and will eventually freeze, forming a material known as pykrete.

Once the molds are deflated and removed, the pykrete shell is left standing on its own support. The resulting wood fiber content in pykrete makes the material three times stronger and tougher than pure ice.

"And although the ice building will have the same shape as the Sagrada Familia, it won't have the same decorative exterior," Pronk said.

Pykrete, the alternative building material, was used for the first time during World War II to compensate steel shortage. The idea was conceived by Journalist-turned-scientist Geoffrey Pyke to build huge, bulletproof, unsinkable aircraft carriers.

The HMS Habbakuk, a 2000 foot long aircraft carrier, was to be built with 40 foot blocks of Pykrete, weighing over 2 million tons, i09 reports.

At the end, the project was scrapped due to cost barriers and resource depletion. For example, more steel was required to store the frozen ice than it would've taken to build an entirely new ship, Discovery reports.

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