13 de novembre del 2009



To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Marta Xargayo, and I’m writing to you with regards to the temple of La Sagrada Familia, which has recently been added to your World Monuments Fund watch list (http://www.wmf.org/project/temple-expiatori-de-lasagrada-fam%C3%ADlia).
I am a member of ‘Junta Permanent en Defensa del Patrimoni de Catalunya’, a local non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation and preservation of the cultural heritage in Catalonia, Spain. For the past years we have been racing against time, and fighting against all odds, to stop the construction of an underground train tunnel that will pass approximately one meter from the foundations of La Sagrada Familia. Many experts consider the project an absurd and unnecessary gamble that may cause irreparable damage to the building. As a matter of fact, cracks have already started to appear in the façade of buildings located a few blocks away from La Sagrada Familia.

The reason for sending this message is to inform you about the latest developments affecting the underground tunnel, and ask you for assistance. Upon legal action by the ‘Junta Constructora de La Sagrada Familia’ (which is the non-profit organization in charge of the construction of the Sagrada Familia), the construction works were put under supervision by a committee of five judges from the ‘Audiencia Nacional’, a national-level Spanish court. In a previous ruling, under huge political pressure, the judges refused to stop the construction of the underground tunnel, but required ADIF (the public company in charge of the construction) to build a protective screen of underground pylons at a distance of 1.95 meters from the foundations. These pylons were supposed to be made of reinforced concrete and encased in a steel sleeve to protect them from water and corrosion. The main objective, along with providing protection to foundations, was to observe how much they shifted over time under the gigantic weight of the temple.

To everybody’s surprise, last week, the architects in charge of the construction of La Sagrada Familia denounced that the protective pylons were being placed by mistake dangerously close to the foundations, at a distance of 1.12 meters (see attached PDF document ‘Pylons and Protective Screen.pdf’ showing a diagram - projected pylons are in green, actual pylons are red). That is, ADIF made a huge mistake and dug the pylons 83cm closer to the temple than what the judges had ordered. But that was not the only mistake, in each pylon, only one third of their length had the required protective steel sleeve, thus creating a severe problem because they wouldn’t last as long as expected underground, and negatively affecting the future integrity of the protective screen.

Because of the flagrant violation of the court orders, the ‘Junta Constructora de La Sagrada Familia’ filed a motion to in court requesting to halt the construction of the underground train tunnel. However, the judges dismissed the petition. And that constitutes a violation of Spanish law, and a violation of European Union law that mandate that EU state members abide to their own national laws. While appeals to the Spanish Supreme Court and to European Union court system are being discussed, we would like to ask the World Monuments Fund any assistance you can give to our cause in the form of media attention and public relations. Because the matter is of political nature and not technical (most specialist have already declared the tunnel a dangerous temerity and unnecessary), we believe that our best chance to counter the political pressures from the Spanish administrations is to create international awareness about the tunnel project. Local public opinion as shown in all pools is overwhelmingly against the tunnel, and if the eyes of the world are focused in this matter, we believe that the Spanish courts will have to think twice before continuing bending the legal system as they are doing now.

If we don’t stop them, on Spring 2010 a monstrous tunneling machine 100 meters long and weighing 2300 tons will start digging less than 2m from the foundation of the Sagrada Familia. And we all have in our minds the disaster of Cologne (in April 2009 the construction of a subway line cause the collapse and destruction of the city's Historical Archive), and the problems in the construction of construction of Amsterdam’s fourth metro line (houses neighboring the tunnel works sank up to 23 centimeters deep and have since been declared unfit for habitation).

I sincerely thank you for your assistance. Along with this message I’m attaching some newspaper articles and pictures related to the tunnel construction. Please let me know if you have any questions or require further information.

Kind Regards,

Marta Xargayó

Junta Permanent en Defensa del Patrimoni de Catalunya