Monday, January 17

Patrimony. Will the construction of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona ever be completed?

Seventh chief architect of the Sagrada Familia, Jordi Faulí has ​​long been considered the man who would complete Antoni Gaudí’s iconic work in Barcelona. But the pandemic has again thwarted the plans for this extraordinary project, which has been underway for nearly 140 years. “I would like to be here for many years to come, of course, but I leave it to God,” confides this Barcelonan, born near the famous basilica, where he started working in 1990, with a shy grimace.

At the time, he was 31 years old. That is to say the same age as Gaudí when he launched himself into the construction of this monumental structure to which he devoted four decades, until his death, when he was struck by a tram in 1926. “When I arrived, only three of these columns were built, and only the first ten meters, ”says Jordi Faulí, pointing to several stone pillars from an attic in the main nave. “I had the chance to plan and see the entire interior built, then the sacristy, and now the central towers,” adds the 62-year-old man with his slow phrasing.

A new tower inaugurated this Wednesday

The largest of the nine towers already completed, that of the Virgin Mary, was officially inaugurated on Wednesday, the day of the Immaculate Conception, with the illumination of a gigantic 5.5-ton glass and steel star that overlooks the structure at 138 meters high. It will eventually be the second tallest tower of the 18 planned by Gaudí. It is also the first inaugurated since 1976.

When will the rest of the building be completed? The initial schedule called for work to be completed in 2026, the centenary of the death of the famous modernist architect. But with the Covid-19 pandemic, this goal has been abandoned and further work remains uncertain. “We cannot give any estimate, because we do not know at what level the visits will resume in the years to come”, explains Jordi Faulí, who recalls that the basilica is financed only by private donations and, above all, the entrance fees for visitors.

Closed to the public for almost a year

In 2019, the Sagrada Familia was the most visited monument in Barcelona, ​​with 4.7 million admissions. But with the Covid-19 pandemic, the basilica remained closed to the public for almost a year from March 2020, in two cumulative periods. According to municipal data, less than 764,000 people visited the building in 2020. And according to the foundation in charge of the work, the visits will not return to their pre-crisis level before the end of 2023 at the earliest.

This is not the first time that the site has encountered difficulties. The Sagrada Familia even saw its future threatened during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), when a large part of the plans and models left by Gaudí disappeared in a fire. For some, this capital loss does not allow considering recent elements as the work of the Catalan architect. UNESCO also includes in its world heritage only the facade of the Nativity and the crypt of the basilica, erected during Gaudí’s lifetime. But for Faulí, the current building is faithful to the original project. Gaudí “clearly drew the arrangement of the different elements of the naves (…), vaults, towers” and proposed “that these geometric rules, this grammar that he left in his models can be reproduced”, he insists. -he.

Mass tourism criticized

Before the pandemic, Faulí, appointed chief architect of the basilica in 2012, led a team of 27 architects and more than 100 workers. Today, only five architects and 16 workers work on the site.

In Barcelona, ​​a city of 1.6 million inhabitants where the debate on its tourism model is raging, such a project is all the more delicate as many inhabitants are opposed to mass tourism which, according to them, is destroying some districts of the city … including that of the basilica. “My life is here and they want to put it to the ground” or “Stop the lies of tourist guides”, denounce the banners attached to balconies in the street where the future main entrance to the building is to be built, a staircase that would require the relocation of several hundred families.

Asked about these criticisms, Faulí advocates “dialogue with everyone and the search for fair solutions”. However, he would like to see the main facade of the building completed, from which he has never moved away for more than two weeks in a row over the past 30 years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *