132 years later, Barcelona’s fantastical Sagrada Família is approaching the last stage of its construction.
In August 1963, Merloyd Lawrence wrote a dispatch in The Atlantic from Barcelona, mentioning many of the city’s cultural landmarks: the merchants on Las Ramblas, the food, and the buildings designed by Antoni Gaudí, the “architect laureate of Catalonia.” After a disclaimer noting that many a “discriminating traveler has found his work hideous,” Lawrence describes the Iglesia de la Sagrada Família, Gaudí’s most famous building, as an “unfinished, uninhibited cathedral in which stone explodes into botanical fantasies or overflows like molten wax.”
52 years after Lawrence’s piece appeared in The Atlantic and 132 years after construction began in 1883, the magnificent Sagrada Família has reached its final stage of construction. According to the current chief architect, Jordi Fauli, six more towers will be added to the basilica by 2026, bringing the grand total to 18, each of which is dedicated to a different religious figure. The building’s completion is timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the architect’s death, although adding the final decorative elements could take another four to six years after the towers are erected. When it’s finished, the basilica will be the tallest religious building in Europe, standing at 564 feet.