The architecture proposed by Gaudí is the result of a continuous effort in the search for perfection, which depended on constant experimentation. His empirical method, based on testing and correction, is how he was able to experiment with new shapes, surfaces and volumes, which couldn’t be seen in drawings, but in 3D models. However, he needed unique collaborators to carry out all these tests; model makers, who are professionals capable of generating prototypes to scale with which they could try how what Gaudí drew would behave when exposed to light, or how it interacted with other elements in their environment. And that’s how his architecture, which is admired all around the world, became closely linked to the model makers’ work.
Gaudí generally had 1/25 scale plaster models made, a size that was enough for him to achieve a certain amount of detail in what he was testing. However, when he needed it, he had 1/10 scale models made, that is, only two times smaller than reality, which offered even more precision.
That’s how Gaudí worked and that’s how we still do it now, with these same scales. The 3D printers help accelerate the process a lot, but in spite of using this technique, the models always need to be adjusted and that has to be done manually, which makes the assistance of professional model makers necessary. They are in permanent and close collaboration with the architects of the Temple. We currently have other technological tools to validate the project, including 3D glasses, but they don’t make touching the piece possible. Perhaps, as it might have happened to Gaudí, to validate a piece or to choose to improve or correct a shape, we also need to hold it in our hands and touch its edges or its undulations. Touch provides information that sight doesn’t and, at times, this has provided us with decisive details for the project.
In this video, the head of the Model Makers’ Workshop, Albert Portolés, explains his work and its importance for the construction of the Sagrada Família, and gives the example of the model of the sacristy dome, which has been essential for the project of the Temple’s great central lanterns.