Residents dispute the accessory’s aesthetics and are outraged against the installation of escalators to access the monument, which would force the destruction of hundreds of homes.
Under construction since 1882, the Holy Family, basilica designed by Anton Gaudí, is one of the main tourist attractions in Barcelona, appearing annually at the top of the most visited monuments in the world. The inhabitants of the surrounding neighborhoods are already used to the cranes and the constant work, however, there is a new addition to the work that is generating discontent: a three-dimensional star, with 7 meters in length, which will be illuminated from December 8th, the date on which the Immaculate Conception Day is celebrated.
A group of neighborhood residents even accused the foundation responsible for managing the finances of disloyalty in its relationship with residents and the implementation of adornment seems to have been the last straw. Salvador Barroso, one of the association’s representatives, described the star himself as “aesthetically horrible“. Even so, one of the fears of the association is that the foundation responsible for the monument will proceed, in parallel, with the construction of a large staircase that would take visitors from the basilica to the main entrance (still under construction). This would oblige, according to the residents, the demolition of three city blocks and there the displacement of about a thousand families.
Xavir Martinez, director of the foundation, has already come to say that they are available to receive suggestions about escalators, but forwarded any final decision on this addition to the city council, which will have to be included in the city’s urban planning. However, and as The Guardian notes, as the local elections, it is unlikely that authorities will choose to pass a plan that includes demolishing hundreds of homes.
On the other hand, critics of the architectural option claim that escalators did not part of the original plan designed by Antoni Gaudi, having been added by one of his disciples after the unexpected death of the Catalan architect. A group of local architects agree with this point, also defended by Unesco — whose distinctions only cover the parts of the basilica completed during Gaudi’s lifetime — something that, as one would expect, the foundation representing the basilica disputes.
At the foundation’s last press conference in 2019, the foundation announced profits from 80 million and 100 million euros in 2018 and 2019, respectively, of which 110 million would be destined for the construction of the monument. The remaining slice, it was announced, would be set aside if there was an abrupt drop in the number of visitors.
Therefore, it was with amazement that, at the beginning of the pandemic, the inhabitants of the city received the news that the works were going to be suspended, at least until 2024, with the exception of the works that took place in Torre Maria. The “set aside” money would prove essential to pay the wages of the majority of workers who were left out of work, but also to maintain the security of the space. According to those responsible, it is not expected that the works will resume while the number of visitors remains at a quarter of that registered in 2019.
Another of the criticisms that the residents’ association makes of the foundation has precisely to do with these numbers, since, they point out, there is no way to verify its truthfulness.
In light of an agreement made between the Spanish State and the Vatican, the foundation is not obliged to disclose annually the profits made or to pay taxes, it only has to do so with the funds resulting from the gift shop which exists adjacent to the basilica — money from tickets is treated as if it were donations. “We submit our accounts to the Catholic Church, as required by law, the lack of public access to this information it’s not something that concerns me“Said Xavir Martinez.
As for the possible construction of the staircase, this is a theme yet to be discussed, with Martínez showing himself available to discuss the matter with the residents, in order to reach the best solution for everyone. Residents’ representatives, on the other hand, emphasize the importance of finding a solution that meets the needs of the city and not just the foundation.