BARCELONA – Construction of the famous Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona, Spain, has been underway for 140 years. However, for some residents, the completion of the world-famous building may not be long enough.
Gaudí’s project, which began construction in 1882, has been delayed by civil war, underfunding, nature conservation and permit applications, among other things. In 2019, 2026 was designated as the completion year. However, the corona pandemic disrupted the plans again. First of all, because no visitors could come for successive periods and therefore no money came in from admission tickets. Secondly, there was a lot of delay in the supply of building materials.
Grand staircase to the entrance
The residents of an apartment building on the adjacent calle Mallorca are fighting against the planned demolition of their building. That would have to make way for a staircase to the grand entrance on the Glory facade of the religious building. The residents association has filed a lawsuit against the city council. The argument is that the staircase was not part of Gaudi’s original plans.
Although a fire destroyed the architect’s original papers, the group’s argument already has legal precedent. It was first deployed in 1975 by the property developers Nuñez y Navarro during a legal battle with the Junta del Templo. That is the foundation that oversees the Sagrada Familia. The developers won their case, allowing them to continue building residential homes on the site.
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Only a year later, however, a new mayor took office and with him came a new urban master plan for the city. In this, the construction of the staircase was reintroduced as part of the complete Sagrada Familia, regardless of the demolition of the surrounding houses that would be necessary.
The Sagrada Familia Basilica is one of Barcelona’s – and Spain’s – most popular tourist attractions and a symbol of the city. The basilica’s unique architecture and Antoni Gaudi’s vision have attracted millions of visitors from all over the world for decades.
Salvador Barroso Moreno, a lawyer who has lived in the area for more than thirty years, sees the proposed dimensions of the stairs as “completely out of place” in today’s city. Speaking to Artnet News, he expressed doubts that the Sagrada Familia is good for Barcelona. “The city has many more interesting monuments,” he said, referring to Gaudís Casa Batlló and the Hospital de Sant Pau, another modernist building. “These have not received the same marketing and publicity as the Sagrada Familia.”
The fact that it is now a tourist attraction has hardly warmed the residents to the basilica. Frustration at the overwhelming influx of visitors into their neighbourhood almost daily year-round is agonising. It is also resonating in the city with sharply increased rental prices in response to the popularity of tourist platforms such as Airbnb, constant crowds and the booming trade for restaurants, bars and souvenir shops at the expense of local businesses. “Our neighbourhood is becoming more and more like a theme park,” said Moreno.
Residents are now anxiously awaiting the upcoming municipal elections on May 28. They play a role in determining whose interests will ultimately take precedence. According to Gabriel Prats, spokesperson for the residents’ association, most residents are hoping for a victory for Colau, from the left-wing Comuns party, or Ernest Maragall, from the ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia). Meanwhile, Jaume Collboni, of the centre-left PSC (Socialist Party of Catalonia), would be the worst-case scenario, Prats said. “For him, the maximum progress of tourism is the priority, not the interests of the residents.”
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