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Architecture

Sagrada Familia to pay €36 million after building without permit for 136 years

Barcelona’s famous unfinished basilica is finally paying the price for more than a century of building for free.

The Sagrada Familia, the unique structure by Antoni Gaudí that dominates the Barcelona skyline, has been 136 years in the making. Its spires and the ever-present silhouette of cranes have become a part of the city’s identity and its most visited attraction.

However, in 1882 the original plans never got an official approval from the local council, and the modern-day Sagrada Familia is set to pay richly for the sins of its past.

It has agreed to pay €36 million (US$40 million or AUS$58 million) to the city of Barcelona, to cover the municipal expenses generated since work began in the nineteenth century.

The famous Catalan architect took over the design of the structure the year after it began, turning it into the world-famous edifice it is today, and securing the crypt and facade a place on UNESCO’s world heritage list. The design has undergone many changes since Gaudí’s death in 1926, staying as true to his vision as possible after his original plans were lost in the Spanish civil war.

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia, 1915.

The money, to be paid over the next 10 years, will be split across several projects, with €22 million (US$25 million or AUS$31 million) invested in the Barcelona public transport network and a further €7 million (US$8 million or AUS$11 million) for improving access to the metro.

The remaining amount will go towards redeveloping the streets around the Sagrada Familia, as well as towards investments in street maintenance and security.

In return, the council has announced it will officially formalise permits to complete the design, and regularise work on the construction.

The construction is now in its final stages, with 70 percent of the building complete. Currently, six central towers are still undergoing work. The project is finally due to be completed in 2026, marking 100 years since Gaudí’s death.

Gaudí was struck dead in 1926 by a tram, so I’m really not sure how he would feel about most of the money being invested in public transport. Barcelona, however, will surely be pleased that its most unique and famous attraction will finally be completed, and it will pay for city-wide improvements to boot.

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