La Sagrada Familia – Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

One of Spain’s Most Extraordinary Buildings

To finish or not to finish? The enormous Sagrada Familia remains the incomplete, roofless masterpiece of the eccentric genius Antoni Gaudi. The Catalan architect, a national hero, was run over and killed by a tram in 1926 before he could complete his most bizarre, controversial creation.

The most famous proponent of modernismo (the Catalan avant-garde style, unique to the region, that flourished from 1890 to 1920), Gaudi put Barcelona on the architectural map. The Sagrada Familia is his most emblematic and idiosyncratic work, Art Nouveau with a twist.

Gaudi tapped into the same playful Catalan spirit one sees in the work of Picasso, Miro, and Dali, and more often than not avoided straight lines in favor of flowing, organic forms. He created a number of other surreal works, such as Parc Guell, the apart­ment and office building of Casa Batllo, and several private homes.

But the fantasist is best known for the Sagrada Familia, a melted sand castle frozen in mid-creation. Only the crypt, apse, and facade were completed before his death. Gaudi is buried in the crypt, where a museum displays scale models showing how he envisioned the church. Authorities say it may not be completed until well into the 21st century—if ever.

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