La Sagrada Família

Barcelona – Plaça de la Sagrada Família – View North on La Sagrada Família – Passion façade

Barcelona’s most famous church, La Sagrada Família, designed by Antoni Gaudí, draws so many people to see it that the neighborhood is congested with tour buses and taxis and scooters. It’s estimated that some three million people went inside of the church in 2016, and another seven million came just to stare at the outside of the strange, behemoth structure.

Construction – Exterior 2016

The immense but still unfinished church of the Sagrada Família has been under construction since 1882, and is still financed by private donations. Completion is planned for 2026.


What’s the problem?
Gaudi was an architect who was hired to design and oversee the building of a very special church in Barcelona, a city in northern Spain. He wanted the building to be really big and impressive to remind people about their religious beliefs. He thought that the building could be new and innovative as well.

Gaudí aimed to create a new architecture with balanced and self-supporting structures. In his workshop he experimented with and refined the constructional solutions he used on the building by using models. This way of working has been used by all his successors and is still practiced in the temple’s technical office. The Sagrada Familia was and still is a constructional challenge: it is one of the largest testing grounds for construction methods in the world.

That’s Engineering!
A catenary is the curve that an idealized hanging chain or cable assumes under its own weight when supported only at its ends. The catenary curve has a U-like shape. Catenaries and related curves are used in architecture and engineering, in the design of bridges and arches, so that forces do not result in bending moments.

Engineering ideas

  • curve, weight, support, bending moment, pre-stressed

Learn more…

  • La Sagrada Família – The 19th of March, 2017 is the 135th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of the Temple. Currently, 70% of the Basilica is finished and we are working on building the six central towers. Work on the towers of the evangelists and the Virgin Mary has continued at a good pace after beginning last December with pre-stressed stone panels that are made at the workshop in Galera. The towers follow the architectural model of the sacristy, which Gaudí left a plaster model of.
  • La Sagrada Família (podcast, notes) – it’s currently the longest running construction project in the world.