La Sagrada Familia is much more than a building and its surprising and imposing presence is bound to affect the area around it partly because it needs to be viewed from a distance.
Furthermore, what remains to be built is the temple's main facade - The Glory Facade - which is on Carrer Mallorca and according to Gaudí's plans should give on to an enormous passage.
However, since Gaudí's death in 1926, this part of the Eixample has been urbanised and what were once open fields are now blocks of inhabited apartments.
This means that Barcelona City Council is currently considering various plans to remodel the area around the basilica between now and the completion date in 2026.
Given that this is now a little over a decade away, decisions about the future of La Sagrada Familia and the area around it need to be taken as soon as possible in order to have current residents rehoused in time.
These two pictures give an idea of the space limitations that the project is currently facing and below you'll find the eight possible solutions that are currently being considered.
The current plan for the area around the Sagrada Familia is to build 60-metre-wide avenue opposite the Glory Facade that would run down from Carrer Mallorca as far as Carrer Aragó.
This would create a green zone wider than Passeig de Gràcia and would offer excellent views of the main Glory Facade.
However, it would involve the demolition of two complete blocks of the Eixample that are currently occupied by residents, shopkeepers and small businesses.
Another possibilty is to leave the area around the basilica exactly as it is.
The obvious advantage of this option is that none of the surrounding buildings would have to be demolished.
However, the views of the Sagrada Familia would be severely restricted and as the Glory Facade is planned to be the main facade, this is already very frustrating for Gaudí fans.
Given the buildings importance as the most visited tourist attraction in Spain, this would mean that the current problems of access and parking would continue.
The third option that is being considered is to build a narrower street that runs down from Carrer Mallorca to Carrer Aragó.
To be perfectly honest, in terms of demolition cost, there is very little to distinguish this and the current plan, which is outlined in Option 1.
Obviously, a narrower avenue means less spectacular views and so will fail to satisfy the tourist requirements.
It is important to bear in mind that the Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Familia brings an extraordinary amount of revenue to Barcelona.
Option 4 consists of an even shorter street that would go from the Glory Facade on Carrer Mallorca only as far as Carrer Valencia.
The fact that only one block of the Eixample would have to be demolished means that this option is financially less demanding but the views of the Sagrada Familia would be severely restricted.
Speaking personally, I find the current lateral views from Plaça de la Sagrada Familia and Plaça de Gaudí inadequate and this option would provide similar perspectives.
This option runs along similar lines as the previous ones but as the space is broader it would mean that the avenue would include the junction of Carrer Aragó with Avinguda Diagonal.
It makes sense that, if major demolitions and relocations are necessary, to take full advantage of the space created.
Bearing in mind that the Sagrada Familia will be one of Barcelona's major monuments for centuries to come, this is one of the most popular alternatives.
Similar to but more limited than Option 5, this option makes use of the whole space that would be created by the demolition of one block of the Eixample and would run from Carrer Mallorca only as far as Carrer Valencia.
As I mentioned in my overview of one of the previous options, this is acceptable but still only offers relatively limited views of the building.
As the Glory Facade will be the main entrance, more distance is required, in my opinion.
This option corresponds to Antoni Gaudí's own personal preference, which he supported until shortly before his death when he gave in to pressure and conceded that something similar to Option 5 would also be acceptable.
Gaudí himself want the Sagrada Familia to be appreciated from as many angles as possible and this star shape was his answer.
A lot of demolition would be involved but the fact that Plaça de la Sagrada Familia and Plaça Gaudí are already green spaces makes the project much more feasible.
The finally option is a reduced version of Gaudí's original star idea, which would involve fewer changes in the surrounding neighbourhood.
Basically, what is happening here is that one of the arms of the star has been suppressed making this possibly the least invasive of the eight alternatives.
It would mean that views of the Glory Facade would be very restricted though.
Speaking personally, I think it's a toss up between Options 5 and 7.
Obviously, Gaudí defended the star idea throughout his life but shortly before his death in 1926, he allowed his close friend and collaborator Francesc Berenguer to create the following drawings, which give a greater prominence to the Glory Facade and include steps that run up from what is now Carrer Mallorca.
Furthermore, when Gaudí was alive Plaça de la Sagrada Familia and Plaça de Gaudí, both of which offer excellent lateral perspectives, were not even planned so in many respects Option 5 may be quite similar to what the architect had originally envisaged.
Please feel free to make a comment and let me know what you think, I get the feeling that despite the sense of urgency, this is a debate that may continue for some time.
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