With the closure of cultural facilities in March to control the coronavirus, an unexpected situation occurred: the buildings created in Barcelona by Gaudí, recognized as a World Heritage Site by Unesco, were left empty without the millions of people who visited them every year . And when, between June and July, they reopened, the situation had changed forever. Today, of the seven buildings that can be visited in this city, three have been closed to visitors since October: the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló and the Crypt of Colonia Güell, in nearby Santa Coloma de Cervelló. Another two: La Pedrera and Casa Vicens, open three days a week and only Palau Güell and Torre Bellesguard offer visits with regular hours. Park Güell, for its part, is already charging entry to visit its monumental enclosure (between 9:30 and 18:00), where Gaudí’s hand is more evident.
All these buildings lost in 2020, on average, 80% of their visitors. 2021 is almost considered lost, while its managers hope that recovery will arrive in 2022 when vaccines allow people from the Asian continent to travel to Spain, especially those who visit them, in addition to Europeans, French , by proximity, and Americans.
The sacred Family It is the most visited building in Spain. Until the pandemic, 4.5 million people, who financed the works that were scheduled to finish in 2026, the centenary of the architect’s death. But in 2020 it was only 675,000, 85% less than the previous year. In July they resumed the visits for Barcelona, but in October they closed again with no scheduled date to resume them. If there are no visitors, especially from outside our borders, there is no income and the cost of opening the temple is higher than the income. “We need about 600 people a day to make it profitable, and now we don’t have them,” they say from Sagrada Familia, concentrating, after 11 months of work stoppage, on finishing the Torre de María. It has already been announced that in 2026 it will be impossible to have all the works finished. Last week the Construction Board and the City Council agreed to postpone the payment until 2022 of almost 1.7 million of their contributions to the city (which will be 36 million euros in 10 years) to finance public transport and the maintenance of public space . The parties agreed that it would be paid when the 1.1 million visitors are exceeded.
After reopening the Batlló House This house, built in 1906 in July, closed its doors permanently at the end of October after some incidents during a protest by the workers of a subcontractor who made visits to this house on Paseo de Gràcia that ended in the breakage of one of the stained glass windows on the façade that led to a complaint by the owners, the Bernat family, which is continuing. In 2020 it was visited by 230,819 people, 78.3% less than in 2019 (1,065,000 people). There is no reopening date. “It will be in spring or summer” explain sources from the property of the building, the Bernat family, who assure that they are working “on a new proposal that allows you to enjoy the architecture beyond the museum visit.”
The crypt of the Colonia Güell It is the third Gaudí building that is closed to the public. Located in the industrial colony that Eusebi Güell created in Santa Coloma de Cervell, it reopened on July 4, only on weekends and closed at the end of October due to increasing restrictions that prevented 75% of its public, schoolchildren and tourists, from accessing. Of the 92,657 visitors in 2019, it went to 21,200, 77% less. “It worked really well on the weekends in August. It was a success, and we extended to the holidays during September. But the regional and later municipal movement restrictions caused a significant drop and we decided to close at the end of October ”, explains Andrés Andrés, technical manager of the consortium that manages the colony and the crypt built between 1898 and 1914. They work, he explains, with the idea of reopening for Easter. October marks the 20th anniversary of the association that celebrates the Modernist Festival and they hope to commemorate it and be able to receive, as before the pandemic, a large number of public.
The Casa Vicens, The first house created by Gaudí between 1883 and 1885, received, in the 195 days it opened in 2020, a total of 49,376 visitors compared to 163,096 the previous year, 70% less. In the data released by the director Emili Masferrer on Tuesday, he assured that, for the most part, his visitors were Barcelonans, half of the total, followed by French, Italians and Americans and Japanese (between 6 and 4%), who They must have visited her before the border closures in March. Since its reopening in July they have done so only three days a week, from Friday to Sunday and they claim to be in “a waiting period” in the second half of the year in which there will be more demand, as tourism reactivates and thus be able to open more days a week.
The stone is the other building open only three days a week, from Friday to Sunday. It reopened on July 15 and despite the good results it had in January and February, its visitors in all of 2020 were 181,354, well below the 1.5 million the previous year, 86.2% less. From the Catalunya-La Pedrera Foundation, owner of the building built between 1906 and 1912, they confirm that this year they will not organize any of the notable exhibitions that the noble floor hosts. Neither activities since, being a foundation, “without abandoning the patrimonial issue as shown by the fact that maintenance work is being carried out on the paintings in the patios” are focused on the “most urgent” social issues. Marta Lacambra, the general manager calculated that the closing from March to July meant “losses of more than 6.5 million euros”.
The Palau Güell, it is one of only two buildings that are open seven days a week. It reopened on June 16, “due to the responsibility of being a public building”, as it is owned by the Diputación de Barcelona. Despite this, it received a total of 45,597 visitors in 2020, 80% less than in 2019 (227,341). Of the total, 90% were Spanish and of them, 97% Catalan, figures that contrast with the previous ones in which 93% were tourists and only 1.6% from Barcelona. Since December the visit has one more incentive: the exhibition of the mysterious Aleix Clapés who painted most of the walls inside.
The other building that is open every day is the Torre Bellesguard, the building that Catalana de Occidente bought in 2018. It was the first to reopen since March, last June 9 and in the middle of August, when it turned out that part of the nearby lot had just been acquired to grow, it had received about 200 people who visited this building completed in 1909 in small groups.
A basalt column from the Crypt Güell, at the MNAC
Those in charge of Gaudí’s buildings consulted agree that the exhibition that the MNAC will inaugurate on Gaudí (from September 30 to January 23), which will then travel to the Orsay Museum in Paris, will be a catalyst to relaunch his work and recover visits losses. “For us it is very important to participate and give away some of the pieces in the crypt,” explains Andrés Andrés, a technician from the consortium that manages Colonia Güell. “It is a showcase. Gaudí is well known, but the crypt is not so well known. That works can be seen at the MNAC and then they travel to Paris, is essential ”, he assures. For this reason, they have not hesitated to lend them one of its most iconic elements: a basalt column similar to the ones Gaudí used to build the crypt. Specifically, one of the elements that have been installed in an architectural garden – which the pandemic has prevented from inaugurating – with elements that were left unused when work was paralyzed in 1914, which prevented the church from being erected. Last week, the curator of the exhibition Juanjo Lahuerta and the MNAC team visited them to prepare the necessary logistics to transport it to the Montjuïc museum, to be one of the star pieces of the exhibition.