The Suitcase Lady


November 13, 2018, 8:32 pm

After 136 years under construction, one of the world’s most iconic structures finally will be getting a building permit. The Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) Basilica in Barcelona will pay a fine of 41 million dollars for being remiss. In return, the church board will receive its building permit and continue the last 30 per cent of the structure.

Antoni Gaudi, the architectural genius who devoted the last forty decades of his life to the project, stated that, “My client is in no hurry”. He was referring to God. In 1926, Gaudi was run over by a tram and died. The construction of his incredible plans continued. But in 1936, the Spanish Civil War was raging and all his plans and models were destroyed.  Multiple architects and committees down through the years have struggled to capture his vision. Computers are trying as well. The current goal is to complete the church in 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.

Sagrada Familia will be the tallest church in the world if the plans are realized. And it will also be “the most controversial place of worship ever built on an epic scale”. It is viewed as a breathtaking spiritual and engineering masterpiece or “a cluster of gigantic stone termites’ nests, a colossal vegetable patch, a gingerbread house baked by the wickedest witch of all, a circus attraction and a petrified forest.” Despite the controversy,  three million tourists flock to the church every year and are charged a hefty fee to pass through the doors.

My husband and I were two tourists several decades ago. We jumped at the chance when we found a bargain ticket to Spain: I had long wanted to see all of Gaudi’s apartments, houses, Parc Güell and Sagrada Familia. Arriving in Barcelona at night, we walked directly to the church. It did not disappoint. We could not wait for the next day to return and see the interior.

The joke was on us. There was no inside in the inside…..only windows open to the air, a forest of scaffolds and no workers in sight. We had thought that in over 100 years more progress would have been made.

When news of the missing building permit surfaced last week, I looked up to see how work on Sagrada Familia was progressing. I could hardly recognize the amazing structure we saw so many years ago on that magical night. New towers and additions are sprouting everywhere.

Perhaps that is the inevitable outcome when committees build buildings. Especially committees who don’t believe in “Less is More.”


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