"My client is not in a hurry," Antoni Gaudí used to say. The pious architect was speaking of God, explaining why the Roman Catholic Sagrada Família church was taking so long to complete. Nearly a century later it remains a work in progress—a dream of spires and ornate facades rising hundreds of feet above downtown Barcelona, drawing the eyes (and euros) of some two million visitors a year. This November Pope Benedict XVI consecrated it as a basilica. A final completion date of 2026 appears likely. And if history begets history, the time is ripe to reappraise Gaudí's epic endeavor—and the prescient ideas behind it.
Published: December 2010
The Big Idea: Biomimetic Architecture
When the pope said Mass there this fall, the Sagrada Família was already 128 years in the making—and still not finished. Yet the church’s nature-inspired design remains ahead of its time.
Photograph by Stephen Chao