Students and staff from the Eindhoven University of Technology are planning to construct a 40-meter-high model of Barcelona's Sagrada Familia basilica out of pykrete - ice reinforced with wood fibres.

The 1:4 scale model will be formed by spraying a thin layer of snow over large, inflated molds, followed by another layer of water containing 10 percent sawdust.

The water/sawdust mix gets absorbed into the snow and eventually freezes, forming the material known as pykrete.

Once the molds are deflated and removed from the inside, the pykrete shell, which is said to be three times stronger than pure ice, will be left standing under its own support.

The project aims to showcase pykrete’s potential as a building material for thin-walled temporary structures.

According to project leader Arno Pronk, the technique could be used in applications such as seasonal storage in agriculture, the offshore industry and expeditions, as well as for recreational facilities like ice hotels.

The Sagrada Familia model will be built over three weeks in northern Finland on the same site the university used to construct the world’s largest ice-dome, last winter.

An illustration of the planned finished product

Project leader Arno Pronk with a chunk of pykrete

Courtesy Gizmag