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Even though this basilica in Barcelona has been under construction for over 130 years, it seems no one had the proper paperwork or building permits! Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Basilica is a UNESCO world heritage site that has been attracting more than 20 million people every year.

Now, after two years of negotiations, an agreement was finally met to correct the problem. The trustees of the church have agreed to pay the $41M in fees over a period of 10 years. The city can then fund public transportation, improve accessibility, and make other needed improvements to the surrounding area.

There is no sign that the lack of intelligence will surface anytime soon. The genius, way far to the left Mayor, Ada Colau, said the Basilica’s board had never worked with the proper permit. He continued his accusations claiming they failed to pay the taxes and fees for the construction, and never submitted the required paperwork for tearing down neighboring residential buildings. According to the church (via the Times), they were given a permit back in 1885 by Sant Martí de Provençals, which was an independent town at that time. Officials insist the construction should have received new paperwork when the town merged with the capital quite a few years later.

The construction project, that is now well-known as the non-permitted site, will be completed in 2026 which is approximately 100years since the death of the architect. Adding to everything else, it seems there is a great deal of controversy over whether this famous landmark still reflects the intentions of Gaudi and is expected to continue for some time.

A Little History

Construction started in 1882 under architect Francisco de Paula del Villar. When he retired in 1883, Gaudi took over the project using his own architectural prowess and engineering style. He chose to use a combination of Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau design. Gaudi devoted his entire life to this project and when he died, he was buried in the crypt. He died in 1926, at 73 years-of-age, after being run over by a streetcar and only a quarter of the project had been completed.

Sagrada Familia’s progress was very slow due to relying on private donations and then interrupted by the Spanish Civil War. Construction then resumed in the 1950s but very slowly. Sine 1882, there have been huge advancements in technology including computer design and computerised numerical control or CNC, which has greatly improved progression. The construction actually passed its midpoint in 2010 but some of the project’s greatest challenges are still unresolved. There are supposed to be 10 more spires, each representing an important Biblical figure in the New Testament. To date, it is believed Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Basilica will be completed by 2026 on the hundredth anniversary of his death.

The basilica has experienced a long history of trials and tribulations including a major division of the citizens over the belief it would outshine Barcelona’s leading cathedral, the actual design itself, and those who believed Gaudi’s death totally disregarded his design. Then in 2007, it was proposed to build an underground tunnel in Spain’s high-speed rail to France but it was decided it could make the basilica unstable. Paraphrasing the art critic Rainer Zerbst, he believed it is impossible to find another building quite like this one in the history of art. Paraphrasing Paul Goldberger, he said it’s the most extraordinary interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages.

Josep Maria Bocabella, the founder of Asociación Espiritual de Devotos de San José, was so inspired by the basilica, he wrote The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia.

In 1872, after visiting the Vatican, Bocabella returned home with thoughts of building a church inspired by the basilica at Loreto. The apse crypt of the church was funded through donations and work began on March 12, 1882, which was the festival of St. Joseph. The design was that of Francisco de Paula del Villar who wanted a Gothic revival church in a standard form. The apse crypt was completed before Villar’s resignation in 1883 and then taken over by Gaudi who drastically changed the design. Although he was not appointed Architect Director until 1884, Gaudi started work in 1883.

Sagrada Familia Basilica

The Construction

Regarding the ever slow construction, Gaudi commented that his client was not in a hurry. At the time of his death, only 15 to 20% of the basilica was completed. Work continued under the direction of Domènec Sugrañes i Gras then ceased due to the Spanish Civil War in 1936. During the war, areas of the basilica were burned along with Gaudi’s models and workshop. The design presently being used is based on a reconstructed version of his plans that were also burned in the fire and some modern adaptations have been incorporated. Since 1940, Francesc Quintana, Isidre Puig Boada, Lluís Bonet i Gari and Francesc Cardoner continued the work and the illumination was designed by Carles Buïgas.

Current Members Of The Project

The current director, Jordi Bonet i Armengo, is the son of Lluís Bonet. In the 1980’s he is the one who brought in computers for the designing and construction phases. In 2012, native-born Jordi Fauli took over as the chief architect. Currently, Mark Burry serves as the Executive Architect and Researcher and sculptures created by J. Busquets, Etsuro Sotoo and Josep Maria Subirachs now decorate the façades.

Moving Forward

As of 2000, the central nave vaulting was finished and the main challenge since then has been the construction of the transept vaults and apse. As of 2006, the focus has been on the crossing and supporting structure of the main tower of Jesus Christ and the southern enclosure of the central nave which is known as the Glory façade.

The Sagrada Familia Schools building, designed by Gaudi in 1909, share the site with the church. This building was designed for children and construction workers and then moved in 2002 from the eastern side of the site to the southern corner and is now home to an exhibition.

In Conclusion

Since it’s original birth over 130 years ago, Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Basilica has gone through many difficulties and yet is still going strong. This church has lived through a war, human disagreements, and numerous architects but still holds on to its own. As a UNESCO world heritage site, this incredible building will be completed in 2026, a testimonial to human endeavor and perseverance.