The construction of the Sagrada Família, a Roman Catholic basilica in Barcelona, began on 19 March 1882 and continues today. The church has developed a long and winding history over the years, beginning from when the city was granted permission from the Spanish government to include a religious structure within its urban plans. The original plans for the Sagrada Família were drawn up by a Catalonian octagenarian, Antonio Gaudí, in 1883, who died in 1926 aged 73, before his design for the building was even 70% complete. Since then, a number of buildings that have been inspired by Gaudi’s designs have been built in and around the city, and the project has grown to become one of the biggest investments currently taking place in Barcelona, with the estimated completion date some time in 2026.
Gaudi’s original design for the Sagrada Família was, and still is, set to be constructed in three distinct stages. These stages were divided into the Nativity Façade, the Passion Façade and the Glory Façade. The Nativity Façade, located on the easternmost side of the church, initial design of this façade began in 1909 and was the first component of Gaudi’s original plans to be completed – in the year 1966. The Passion Façade, situated to the west of the complex, was the focus of the restoration project in the 2000’s and was designed to give the building a sense of balance and symmetry and was finished in 2014. The Glory Façade was Gaudi’s primary contender and was designed to be situated on the south side of the building. Having been delayed from the original completion date, it is anticipated that this façade will be completed between 2024 and 2026.
The Sagrada Família project has been met with some financial hardship over the decades due to its grand size and the intricate level of detail in each component. A major financial breakdown occurred during the Spanish Civil War, when the building more or less stopped construction due to lack of funds, leaving the project what it had to ultimately rebuild. Following the war, construction quickly resumed and fundraising campaigns targeted the two main bays of the project which were close to completion. This dynamic process of destruction and rebuilding has occurred multiple times during the buildings construction, prompting a variety of backers to fund the project.
The final stage of the Sagrada Família project has been largely dependant on community involvement, largely through private donations. Ever since it began to accept donations in the late 19th century, the Basilica has enjoyed a constant influx of funds from philanthropists and bodies such as the Catalan government and the Barcelona city council. Its initial conception has been backed by locals for centuries, with early inhabitants of the area lending their labour free of charge in order to complete the project. This form of public involvement has even crossed national boundaries, with those from around the world visiting the site and donating to the the project itself, showing how deeply the story of the Sagrada Família resonates with other communities.
The building has received its fair share of critical acclaim, with many religious authorities and architectural critics praising it for its unique design and the progress of the construction project. Its huge dimensions and attention to detail have led it to be considered a masterpiece in both Christian faith and Gothic architecture, setting the vigour for other religious buildings of note. It is often compared to the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, with both sites being known to be incredibly influential and renowned on international levels. The Sagrada Família has won a number of awards in its lifetime, being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.
The undeniably long and winding construction process of the Sagrada Família has been met with some contentious reactions over the years, with many members of the Barcelona community and beyond voicing their displeasure at the slow-pace of the project. It has been compared to the ongoing debate surrounding the legitimacy of La Sagrada Família's legal status, as it is still technically an unfinished construction project. In recent years, the Catalan public have begun to show their muddlement towards the authorities in charge of the project, frustrated that the plans outlined by Gaudi have yet to come to fruition.
Despite its lengthy and complex construction timeline, the plans for the Sagrada Família have not waned in popularity. It remains one of the city’s most visited and loved attractions, with experts boasting that it is one of the most ambitious projects of its kind in the world. Gaudi’s design was based on the revolutionary idea of preventing potential damage to the structure of the Basilica through modern methods such as mechanisation and computerisation, which has allowed for it to stay unchanged in structure despite its lengthy 126 year history.
The Sagrada Família is relevant today in a variety of ways, providing a venue for both religious and recreational purposes. The cultural relevance it promises even extents to art, with a large number of international artists and photographers taking advantage of its grandeur in order to create their own artwork. Its religious meaning still stands tall in the 21st century, being seen as an iconic symbol to which Christians from all around the world are able to connect to. Its backing by Catalan, Spanish and international institutions ensures its presence in modern day news, with people from all around the globe visiting the site each year, whether for its spiritual or historical significance.
The continual plans for the Sagrada Familia project in the 21st century have questioned its sustainability and environmental compliance. To ensure that the building meets modern day and future standards, a number of initiatives have been employed by the authorities in charge of the project, with sustainability-focused solutions being employed to make sure that the building is not only an architecturally exceptional piece of work, but an environmentally conscious one, with the large-scale use of solar panels at the complex. Furthermore, the Basilica often plays host to a variety of eco-friendly and sustainable events in order to further emphasise its positive tendencies towards protecting the environment.
Roles and Responsibilities
The responsibilities surrounding the completion of the Sagrada Família continuously change with the evolving times, with different foundations and organisations throughout the world being owed credit for the various aspects of the project. At the forefront of the projects progress is the Administration Body, a group of volunteers appointed by the Archbishop of Barcelona, who are in charge of the projects completion on a daily basis, with multiple institutions and sub-committees aiding in the functional operation of the building throughout the year. This group oversees each and every aspect of the project including financial, creative, administrative and constructional perspectives.