Not many global landmarks are still in the making but the Sagrada Familía basilica in Barcelona has been under construction since 1882, when it was first dreamt up by the visionary architect Antoni Gaudí. Since his death in 1926, the project has been hindered variously by civil war, funding problems, conservation work, permit applications, and then the pandemic.
The most recent date set for the cathedral’s completion is 2026. This would leave just three years to finish the Glory façade, an elaborate entrance with a grand staircase, and finally give the towering monument its intended front.
Francesc Pla, who owns a pharmacy in the endangered area, told the publication: “It’s like a sword hanging over our heads not knowing whether, or when, [we]’ll be kicked out.”
Pla currently serves as vice president of an association of concerned locals, who are prepared to defend their right to remain. So far, they have filed a lawsuit that claims the staircase was never part of Gaudí’s original plans, an argument that relies on a 1970s government memo making the same claim in order to justify the construction of an apartment complex on the site.
In fact, it is difficult to verify the architect’s intentions either way since his original plans were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War, according to the local historian Julià Bretos. Contemporary efforts to finish the building are therefore based on surviving photos and the claims of Gaudí’s assistants.
In the 1970s, the authorities may have had less information than they do now, but the declaration has nonetheless set a precedent.
“We’ve been here for 43 years. We don’t want to leave,” said one of the complex’s inhabitants, Albert Herrando, aged 81, according to . His concerns make clear the complications that have resulted from the government’s decision to go ahead with the development.
Artnet News reached out to a representative for the the Sagrada Família Foundation, the private nonprofit which manages the construction of the building, who confirmed the story in but did not share any further comments
The residents’ fates now lies in the hands of Barcelona City Council, which has long been able to defer any direct responsibility for Gaudí’s proposal during the decades when its completion was still just a distant dream.
“The city tolerated the construction always in temporary terms, in precarious terms,” summarized the architect Enric Massip-Bosch, who has been tasked with finding a happy medium between the architect’s historical vision and the practical realities of Barcelona today. No solution has yet been found, though a decision is expected to be made by May 2023, according to a report in Euronews.