At the Sagrada Família, our commitment to technology goes back a long way. For many years now, we’ve also been bringing it into our work with stone, the main architectural material at the Temple. In this case, in fact, technology is used more intensely and with more daring, encompassing everything from extraction at the quarries to producing the finished pieces.
So, at the quarries, manual extraction systems using wedges have been left behind, first thanks to learning to control and limit the use of explosives and, then, using cutting tools like diamond wire, which can cut and square blocks more precisely, which in turn boosts yield. The most visible example of this transformation are the stone-cutting robots. Today, these machines are an essential part of the Sagrada Família, not only because they do the work much faster and more precisely, but also because they help the stonemasons, especially in the initial roughing out stage, which is the most tiring of the tasks due to the physical effort it requires. This way, the stonemasons get the stone already roughed out to within centimetres of the final surface and they can focus on the more visible part of the process: the surface finish, a job done by hand that gives the piece a final look that machines could never match. So, each stone block is unique and no two are the same, unlike if they were made in a factory or just plain bricks.
Furthermore, modern motorised tools make it much easier to finish the faces of the stone that should be polished or smooth, but the finish textures with more relief have to be done as they always have been: imprinting the skill and dedication of the workers onto the stone and using tools that seem to have been taken from a time capsule. The work of the stonemasons gives them a very close relationship with the stone and, as they know it so well, they can detect natural irregularities just by the sound it makes on contact with their tools.
So, their work yields stones with the same textures and warmth of finish as those from more than a century ago, when there weren’t any industrial alternatives for working the stone. And this is what ensures that, when the pieces are completed and put in place, they integrate seamlessly into a universally renowned work like the Sagrada Família.
Learn a bit more about the stonemasons’ work at the Temple in this video, which explains how they carry out their unique, essential task.