Sir Barken Hyena writes:
Formerly in my post on Antonin Gaudi and Neo-Gothic, I mentioned that some innovative technologies were being used to speed the construction of the Sagrada Familia. Together these new techniques might make possible a revival of masonry artistry in architecture, or artistry in general. Here’s an overview of what they’ve been doing at the Sagrada, which is a virtual laboratory of innovative construction and design techniques:
CNC Stone Milling
The idea is that you send a 3D digital plan to the machine, which then carves a block of stone to that exact shape, but doing it in a fraction of the time. This completely replaces human stone carvers for most uses. Since many thousands of custom shaped stones needed, this is a gigantic breakthrough. When Gaudi began in the late 19th C, he expected the construction to take 300 years. Instead it might be done in half that time. In fact the spectacular interior of the church was completed in less than 15 years with the help of CNC milling.
Not used for parts of the church itself, but for concrete molds and templates. For example the fantastic sunflower hyperboloid ceiling vaults are made this way. First a supporting structure is built, then the plastic 3D forms are placed on top. Rebar is added, then the concrete poured. When dry the supports are removed and the mold peeled off. Some columns are also made this way. 3D printing is also used in modeling designs before final manufacture.
The branching tree columns are one of the most impressive aspects of the building. But how were they built? Stone columns are normally a pile of cylinders, which is strong if vertical, but when angled simply slide apart. We can see that these columns are made of stacked parts, but how does it work?
Like legos. The CNC milled stones are in fact hollow rings that link together. Once fitted, the interior void is threaded with tendons of rebar and pumped full with concrete. So the exterior stone is both veneer and mold. When hardened it forms a column of great strength, but also resilient and flexible for earthquake safety. And it looks completely natural!
Custom machines and more
The builders have designed tripod cranes that drop prefabricated parts precisely and delicately in place by remote control, and machines for building spiral staircases and complex columns. There is also a concrete plant on site that churns out all kinds of high tech custom mixtures on demand, and factories for molding prefab elements.
We surely need a new generation of architects to come along and boldly take up these new tools and use them to ram a stake into the heart of the godawful modernist architecture the world has been subjected to by its venal technocratic masters for the last century.
Like I said, a man can dream.