After (only) 133 years of construction, the famous Sagrada Familia has a finish date (kind of). The basilica has entered its final stage of construction, over 100 years since its foundation stone was laid and 90 years after its designer Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí died.
Six new towers will soon be added in the remaining 11 years, bringing the total to 18. The tallest of the new towers will be 564 feet (172 meters) high, making the cathedral the tallest religious structure in Europe, says Jordi Faulí, the current chief architect. However, the architect said elements of decoration could take a further four to six years to finish. “It’s difficult to predict but we can say that it will be completed by 2030, 2032,” he said.
When Gaudí died in a trolley accident in 1926, only one façade—and less than a quarter of the exterior—was complete. Since then construction has been waylaid by everything from protests to politics, civil wars to funding woes. Work has just completed on the chamber, which is located 60 metres above the floor of the church and gives visitors greater proximity to the building’s brightly coloured stained-glass windows and ornamental arched ceilings. Intricately carved tree-like columns support the tall ceilings, while the church’s highly decorated outer facades depict the life and teachings of Jesus.
Adrian Bejan, a professor of mechanical engineering at Duke University, says the façades of the Sagrada Família are based on the golden ratio—the geometric proportion “behind all aesthetically pleasing art.” Bejan, whose “constructal law” states that design in nature is a universal phenomenon of physics, calls Gaudí a forebear and a “tightrope walker on the line bridging art and science. He understood that nature is constructed by laws of mathematics. What is strongest is inherently lightest and most efficient—and therefore most beautiful.”
At the heart of Gaudí’s vision is a timeless truth. As Bassegoda writes: “Looking toward the future, the lesson of Gaudí is not to copy his solutions but rather to look at nature for inspiration … nature does not go out of fashion.”