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Tunnel plans bring subsidence risk to Gaudi church, claims architect

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TUNNELLING WORK planned below Gaudi's celebrated unnished Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona could cause severe damage to the structure, its chief architect has warned.

Work on the 12m diameter tunnel, part of the 600km highspeed rail link between Madrid and Barcelona, funded by central government, is scheduled to take place directly beneath the front facade of the surrealist masterpiece.

It is feared the 22,500t structure would suffer major subsidence and structural damage as a result of the tunnelling, particularly as the ground conditions include poor bearing materials such as decomposing rock, shale, sand and water deposits.

Architectural director Jordi Bonet i Armengol told NCEI he was particularly worried because the building is 'equilibrated', meaning it has been designed statically in symmetry with no vertical columns.

'It's a very experimental structure and we have no experience of what happens when you bring new forces into play, ' said Bonet. 'We believe the tunnel poses a real threat to the church. This is a World Heritage Site and there are alternative routes so why risk it?' Bonet is not satised with plans to strengthen the ground beneath the church using a series of concrete caissons 1.5m in diameter, 42m deep, connected by a horizontal beam forming a protective wall between the building and the tunnel. The wall's top would come within 1.75m of the church's foundations.

But Spanish rail authority ADIF is confident in its design.

A spokesperson said: 'ADIF stands by the route and the design. There have been studies not just to protect the church but also nearby houses.'

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