Daily Archives: 7 June 2007

Things You Did Not Know About the ‘Sagrada Familia’



Eighty-one years ago today, in 1926, Antoni Gaudí was run over in Barcelona by a tram. Because of his ragged attire and empty pockets, a number of taxi drivers refused to pick him up after the accident for fear that he would be unable to pay the fare. He was eventually taken to a pauper’s hospital. Nobody recognized the injured man until his friends found him the next day.

Things you probably know about this genial architect and artist are his major works, such as the still unfinished basilica of the Sagrada Familia (The Holy Family) in Barcelona, Spain. On the subject of the extremely long construction period, Gaudí is said to have joked: “My client is not in a hurry”. After Gaudí’s death, work continued under the direction of Domènech Sugranyes until it was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War in 1935.


According to the newspaper El Periódico de Catalunya, approx. 2.5 million people visit the partially built basilica annually, making it one of the more popular attractions in Spain. The central nave vaulting was completed in 2000 and the main tasks since then have been the construction of the transept vaults and apse. Current work concentrates on the crossing and supporting structure for the main tower of Jesus Christ as well as the southern enclosure of the central nave which will become the Glory façade.


You may also know the Pedrera building, also in Barcelona, or the Parque Güell, in the same Catalan city. And you may know his major interior work in the cathedral in Palma de Mallorca, La Seu, or his El Capricho in Comillas, in Cantabria in Northern Spain.


You may not know, however, that the Sagrada Familia temple has no building license. Notwithstanding that the construction has been on the go for 125 years by now, it seems totally unbased on plans or building licenses or public control.


Not that I mind, really. I wonder if the Pyramids in Egypt have planning consent, or the Tower of London. Why should it matter, then?


Well. Recently, the Ministry of Public Works of Spain (Ministerio de Fomento in Spanish), projected the construction of a tunnel for the high speed train just under where the principal façade of the temple has to be built. Although the ministry affirms that the train project presents no risk for the ‘Sagrada Familia’, the promoters of the temple and the neighbours association “AVE pel litoral” have begun a campaign against the construction of the train tunnel. Also, many architects and technicians related to Gaudí’s temple warn that the construction of a tunnel under a building like this, puts its stability in danger.


Would anybody in their right mind attempt to build a high speed train tunnel directly underneath the pyramids?


The Ayuntamiento de Barcelona (town hall) has until now only once reunited with some of the technicians working on Gaudi’s temple, only concerning themselves with the surroundings of the construction site.


Lets hope they meet again and sort out something tangible.