Why Is Sagrada Familia Taking So Long To Build

Construction of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain began in 1882 and is predicted to be completed in 2026, something many find to be extraordinary taking into account that the architect, Antoni Gaudi, was born 140 years before his predicted completion date. The true reason why the sagrada familia has been taking so long to build is multidimensional.

Firstly, there is a great deal of construction complexity involved since the Sagrada Familia is a large basilica of 6 wings and 18 steeples with intricate decorations and towers that call for a huge amount of work. Compounded to this complexity, its construction comprises of three major basements; one from Napoleon era, one from the cathedral, and one from Gaudi. Therefore, the skill and attention needed for an effective construction is immense.

Another reason for the delay is that the construction departments have suffered from serious financial problems for many decades. Up until recently, the project was kept alive by the generosity of the private donations, but the budget is still insufficient. To date, the Sagrada Família Foundation, which is the organisation in charge of managing the building and its finances, estimates a total of €97 million as the amount of investment needed to finish the construction.

Furthermore, there is still a lack of consensus amongst the representatives of Barcelona’s Committee of Dignitaries. The disagreements on restoration and conservation among the members have been recurrent and have considerably delayed the development of the project.

Finally, the parliamentary activity of the Spanish government has led to a series of laws and ordinances with the intention of ameliorating the condition of the basilica, the most impactful and recent of which is the Special Urban Plan of the Sagrada Familia in 2017, which brought issues such as noise, restoration and traffic within the immediate environment of the basilica. The plan is still under further discussions as many aspects of it keep changing.

An architectural masterpiece

The Sagrada Familia is a Catholic church designed by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi, which soon after its commencement in 1882 started gaining national attention. Gaudi declared the Sagrada Familia “my masterpiece – for which I will be remembered”, putting the entire burden of achieving perfection on himself. This is why it has taken such a long time to build – Gaudi was overersely obsessed with ensuring that every detail, every nook and cranny, is as perfect as it could be.

A close examination of the basilica reveals that Gaudi’s approach to perfection is more than just a whimsical artistic endeavor. It follows a more disciplined but inventive approach. He creates dynamic installations rather than static constructions and inside Sagrada Familia, traces of a thorough understanding of modern architecture, presence of sophisticated engineering calculations, as well as the innovative use of materials and shapes can be observed. The Church is not just a reflection of Gaudi’s unique aesthetic, but also a testament to his technical and formal expertise.

Additionally, it is important to note that the unfinished Sagrada Familia is not just an incomplete building taking an extremely long time, but an icon of Gaudi’s architectural legacy. The attention-grasping and mythical façade makes it impossible to look away. It beckons one to return and explore its every corner, to discover its secrets and stories, and stand in awe in front of its mystifying structure. Without a doubt, it is one of the most dynamic building ever started by a single person, which is why it has piqued the interest of millions worldwide and become a symbol of Barcelona.

Modern renovations yet more delays

The original plan and blueprints of the Sagrada Familia saw its completion by the turn of the century however, this has yet to happen. All along the construction multiple delays were introduced due to demands for modern updates and additions. In 2008, the Catalan government declared the church a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which listed out even more modifications such as the minimum number of rooms, the size of the building and its distance from the streets. The utmost importance of structural integrity and the high number of tourists passing through left no room for compromise, forcing postponements and extensions.

This meant that many years of reconstruction ensued in order to incorporate the new requirements. For example, the restoration of the façade, the Nacimiento, which had started falling apart due to physical deterioration and time, commenced subsequently and is ongoing at the moment. Another example is the design of the Nativity Facade by Catalan sculptor Josep Subirachs, where 8 stonemasons had to be hired to sculpt the various statues present at the façade.

Furthermore, the certain ambitiousness that Gaudi gave to the project is detrimental in modern times. To reach his goal, Gaudi hired the most advanced engineering techniques of his day which are now considered outdated. For instance, the main columns of the main nave are a combination of metal, concrete and stone and wooden structures instead of being made purely out of metal and concrete. This idea was revolutionary thus Gaudi considered it not only functional, but also aesthetically pleasing.

This however, is causing delays in the construction process since combining the materials together is a labour intensive process and needs to be done with great care and attention. As a result, it is taking longer than expected to finish the building.

The Appeal of Unfinished Construction

It is interesting to note that the Sagrada Familia has become a global sensation even in its unfinished state. Even though the original plans showed its completion by the beginning of this century, its ongoing development has created its own charm. This is because the construction represents a highly ambitious endeavour of an individual’s vision of grandeur and perfection. The aesthetic innovations that Gaudi created, the challenges he faced, the changes that he made due to advances in technology and materials, it all has been considered part of his legacy and the spirit of construction.

Although it has become nothing but a testament to Gaudi, his success has resonated with all art forms. Famous names from the world of art and architecture such as Zaha Hadid, Richard Rogers, Oleg Stepan, Frank Gehry and I.M. Pei all pay homage to the genius of Gaudi for transforming the Sagrada Familia. In fact, the visit to this basilica is seen as a pilgrimage for art enthusiasts.

What can be taken away from the the remarkable attention and admiration that this project has accrued is that its unfinished state itself holds its own attraction. It serves as a reminder that the beauty of building something of extreme complexity and grandeur is within the process of creating it, and it is the process of continued and collective effort that is appreciated.

Elevating Gaudi’s reputation

The timeless nature of Gaudi’s project is inspiring – it reflects the architect’s determination and dedication to the detailed exploration of his craft which resonates with art and architecture of our global culture and appreciation for aesthetic value. Many architects look back to Gaudi’s work to seek inspiration, his artistic and architectural innovations showcase his ambitiousness and determination to create an immaculate masterpiece.

Furthermore, the ongoing construction of the Sagrada Familia is elevating Gaudi’s reputation. Once completed, the building will be considered one of the most unique and impressive works of art in the whole of the world – and all achieved by the vision of one man over 100 years.

In recent times, there has been a significant demand for 3D models of the building and people and companies from all around the world have conducted extensive research and experiments to understand Gaudi’s design philosophy. This indicates that, in spite of its lengthy construction, Gaudi’s project has only increased in its appeal and global reach.

The Future of Gaudi’s Dream

Despite all its complexities and the annoying delays, the Sagrada Familia is still on track to become a masterpiece and a global recognition for Gaudi’s passion and talent. His determination and ability to push the boundaries of traditional architecture have made the project even more attractive.

In the near future, the Sagrada Familia will be a timeless sight worth traveling to observe. Whether it’s the intricate designs, the multiple façades, the unique sky-pointing steeples or sheer spread of complex material, it is certain to be the literal and figurative apex of Gaudi’s immortality. Therefore, Sagrada Familia is already an architectural marvel and it is only a matter of time before the world witnesses its completion.

The Construction Process

The groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the Sagrada Familia took place on 19 March 1882 in Barcelona, Spain. It was initially commissioned to Francesc Villar, a minor architect, who worked on the project for few years but then resigned in 1883, citing design problems and lack of recognition. Subsequently, Gaudi stepped in and reworked the project with complete dedication and intention for the completion of this grand work.

He designed the complete basilica from scratch and started working from the incomplete crypt. Over the next few years, he began to add several components, elements and distinct designs in the basilica such as the Cloister, the asymmetrical towers, the intricate carvings, and the geometrically rounded façade.

At the time of Gaudi’s death in June of 1925, the basilica was not complete. However, from that day onwards, the remaining work of the basilica was taken over by the various governments, private donations, patrons and a lot of Gaudi’s methodologies were preserved, ultimately honouring his memory.

In 2010, the Sagrada Familia opened the Nacimiento Façade, which Gaudi had started planning in 1894. At the same time, a new team of 24 stonemasons and carvers were recruited to work on the façade. Since then, they have done a tremendous job on the restoration and rebuilding of the façade and have been successful in protecting and restoring the original Gaudi’s structure.


In summary, there are numerous factors behind the project taking so long to build, however the primary factor is Gaudi’s vision for perfection and his refusal to accept anything less. Upon completion, the Sagrada Familia is expected to be one of the most iconic and important pieces of modern architecture. By this, Gaudi’s memory and zest for excellence of the perfect structure will be remembered for generations to come.

Herman Shaw is a passionate traveler and avid photographer who has seen many of the world's most awe-inspiring monuments. He has developed expertise in various aspects of world architecture and culture which he enjoys sharing with his readers. With deep historical knowledge and insight, Herman's writing brings life to these remarkable artifacts and highlights their importance in the grand scheme of human history.

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